Monday, March 26, 2012

Bad journalism, bad religion: a bad combination

Here's a story that appeared in the U.K. Telegraph over the weekend that should raise a few eyebrows.
Alzheimer's sufferer Dorothy Griffiths, 87, was found sitting down after staff heard a bang and a carer went to the office for help to lift her.

But agency nurse Abdul Bhutto, who was in charge, said they would have to wait.

Carer Zoe Shaw told the Sheffield hearing: "It took between five and ten minutes because he was praying upstairs in the office on his prayer mat. A staff member told me we had to wait for him to finish."

An ambulance was not called for nearly four hours after Mrs Griffiths fell from bed and cut her head and suffered a gash to her hip at the privately-run Valley Park Nursing Home in Wombwell, near Barnsley.

She died later in hospital. Mr Bhutto failed to appear at the inquest and a summons had to be issued for him to attend the resumed hearing later in the year.

Assistant deputy coroner Donald Coutts-Wood said he had contacted him during a recess and he denied being the duty nurse that night and said he had been there on a course.

Mrs Griffiths, the widow of former Barnsley footballer Steve Griffiths, who used to live in Wombwell, had been a resident at the home since 2009 and died last November.

She was put to bed at 9.45pm on October 24 and checked checked every two hours, according to Zoe Shaw.

The old lady was using the toilet at 4am and Mrs Shaw went to an office to fill in paperwork.

She said Mrs Griffiths was not prone to falls and was not considered "at risk".

She and another carer found her on the floor and Mrs Shaw went to get help from Mr Bhutto. He was the most senior nurse on night duty at the home, run by the Mimosa Healthcare Group, because the senior carer was unable to work havning been on duty for six of the previous seven nights.

When Mr Bhutto arrived he checked the pensioner's limbs, took her blood presssure and pulse while she was still on the floor and told the carers to put her back into bed.

But instead Mrs Shaw, worried that she might fall again, washed the old lady, dressed her and took her to the office while she carried on filling forms.

At about 5.45am she took her to the lounge and said she was "talking fine" and walking around.

But at breakfast-time when the residents were being offered a cup of tea Mrs Griffiths was found unresponsive and an ambulance was called at about 7.30am.

Mrs Shaw, who broke down and wept in the witness box, said she would have called an ambulance immediately after the fall but had only since discovered that staff could override a nurses' decision.

Speaking after the inquest was adjourned Dorothy's daughter Jean David, 61, said: "We are quite upset that Mr Bhutto hadn't appeared and we are having to come here again particularly as my brother is having to come up from Staffordshire. We would like it to have been done and dusted but we can't leave it without his evidence."
As an aside, it should be noted that this article is not very well-written. American journalism, as anyone brave enough to endure the agony of browsing a daily newspaper knows, is in a truly sorry state these days. If this article, however, is an illustration of what the British reading public experiences every day, our cousins across the pond are in far worse shape.

I will concede that I have not been employed in print media since the mid-1980's, but do news publications no longer hire copy editors? How could a sentence like, "She was put to bed at 9.45pm on October 24 and checked checked every two hours, according to Zoe Shaw," even get past a low level proof-reader?

After the disturbing account of the Muslim nurse refusing to help the patient until he finished with his prayer time (more about that shortly), the chronology of events becomes muddled and confusing. The patient in question, a woman of some prominence as the widow of a former "footballer" (soccer player), is said to have "died later in hospital," apparently as a result of a series of events which began at "9:45 pm on October 24."

Later in the article, however, the patient is said to have "died last November." The specific date of her death is not mentioned, but it would have been at least a week after the events in question.

Suffice it to say, from a strictly journalistic perspective, this article could use some improvement. The main controversy, however, seems pretty apparent. A Muslim nurse laid aside his responsibilities to a patient in an emergency situation so as not to interrupt his time on the prayer mat. This is disturbing on many levels, not the least of which being that it demonstrates a legalistic devotion to religious ritual as an end in itself, rather than a means to a greater end.

When challenged by the legalistic religious leaders of his day for a supposed transgression of the Sabbath law (cf. Matthew 12:1-8), Jesus quoted from the prophet Hosea, "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).

The one true God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ would never demand of his followers that they finish their quiet time while a neighbor is crying out for help. Indeed, no prayer rising up before the throne of grace is more pleasing than the one put into practice by extending mercy and compassion to those who are suffering.