Private Trauma Made Public

The link at the end of this post goes to a discreet report on something which shouldn’t have been made public in the first place. It’s shared here as an example of a common-but-ethically-dubious human interest story.  Depending on who was driving the car pulled over by police, the child may be in a disastrous family situation.  The public sees something sweet, but the baby may be aware of a lot more.  And none of it is any of our business.

Not every report of this type is discreet.  Sometimes names are made public, and the photographs and video can be graphic.  When children are involved, parental consent may be given ill-advisedly. Not all parents understand the intrusion they’re allowing.  Others, due to their own emotional neediness, go against their children’s interests and actively look forward to news stories on their injured, sick or otherwise vulnerable kids.

The baby featured in this report is not identified by name, and fortunately the bath photo isn’t revealing enough to appeal to pedophiles.  Still, it’s the type of photo which belongs in a family album, not online.  It wasn’t taken during a fun bath at home, either. The picture was taken during an emergency.  The officers in question were good to help the child, but sadly there’s a larger issue now.

I suspect this baby’s situation was made public as damage reduction for a profession which isn’t always viewed well by people, in spite of the fact that many of us have positive and comforting memories of our own contact with the police.

Some police officers have been involved in unnecessarily shortening or damaging lives, and over the past couple of years we’ve heard about more of these tragedies than usual.  It’s hard to know if racist “officer involved shootings” are really happening more often now, or if they’re just getting more attention.  We sure as hell can’t trust statistics.

A media relations consultant will advise clients to balance the bad news with something positive.  Sometimes, positive material that gets circulated is at the expense of someone’s privacy.  Police officers are doing good things, and some are doing a lot of good things.  However, there aren’t many ways to get the word out without taking advantage of someone’s suffering.

Personally, I can think of one time my personal safety would have been at risk if a good experience with a San Francisco Police Department detective had been made public.  I told a few trusted acquaintances how impressed I was with his work, but I didn’t use a bullhorn.  The detective told me what he could keep under his hat and what he couldn’t, based on the law and the needs of carrying out a proper investigation.  I was satisfied he had kept his promise, and in the end everyone was treated fairly.

If we’ve given much thought to the issue, we should each have our own definitions of “hero police officer.”

Right now, I’m thinking of a (non officer-involved) shooting in Oakland, CA, many years ago.  News ghouls arrived right away.  They got video of a mortally wounded little girl, still barely alive, being moved on a gurney to an ambulance.  She was wearing underpants only, and wasn’t covered with the cotton sheet that’s ordinarily given to women trauma victims after they’ve been undressed by first responders.

(The last two paragraphs of this post address a related subject)

An Oakland Police officer tried to wave away the camera crew, and the expression on his face was memorable.  On what turned out to be the last day of that child’s life, he wanted to protect her dignity from sleaze merchants.

He, and the S.F.P.D. detective, are my heroes.

Don’t get me started on the fact that male trauma victims of any age aren’t usually covered with cotton sheets by paramedics, but I’ll get started a little bit anyway.  My father was modest, and I wasn’t there when he unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest at home and died in the emergency room later.  I have a mental image of an undressed older man being moved out of the house on a gurney without a privacy sheet, though.  He would not have approved of it, and although he was unconscious at the time I hope his last moments on earth weren’t really that way.

Isn’t there an elevated risk of the patient going into shock after getting chilled?  The only time I’ve ever been in a “911” accident, firefighters with the S.F.F.D. covered me with a blanket as soon as they got there.  My injuries were minor enough that I was able to stay dressed, so the blanket was deemed necessary for warmth until they could take my blood pressure and find out if I was on the verge of shock.

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