What happened to "first, do no harm"?

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (15 Nov. 2007)

“Primum non nocere” is a saying that Dr. Brown might be familiar with. It’s a Latin phrase meaning “First, do no harm” and is a principle taught early to medical students to consider the possible damage that intervention may create.

With Tuesday’s disturbing revelations published in The Royal Gazette regarding the state of our only Hospital, it is not an understatement to say that the Premier, Health Minister, the rest of Cabinet and an unaccountable inner circle are literally playing politics with people’s lives. A helpful reminder: “First, do no harm.”

Dr. Brown’s invocation of God as his defender at the PLP Banquet notwithstanding; it’s clear that this Government has completely lost sight of what it was elected to do. They exist to serve the public interest, not the reverse.

That is the inescapable conclusion that reasonable people will reach when presented with the private notes of Health Minister Michael Scott which reveal that a damning report from Johns Hopkins on the Hospital “must be managed, it must be written so that it suits the Government and does not become a document that embarrasses GOB [Government of Bermuda]” because “the reports out of KEMH would be devastating.”

Here we go again, with another report going unreported pending a rewrite, while yet another is prepared by Kurron Shares of America, a member of the armada of foreign consultants that seem to be running Bermuda on very lucrative contracts with little accountability or oversight to the public who fund them.

Report shopping is rampant by this Government, whether it’s problems at the hospital or the latest study on young black males; Cabinet will commission an endless number of reports until they find one that tells them what they want to tell us.

To make matters worse, Government won’t even Buy Bermuda; the island has become a playground for highly paid foreign consultants whose loyalty is solely to the politician who cuts their cheques. Independent views ‘must be managed’ and are hastily locked away.

Perhaps this would be tolerable if Government’s performance wasn’t so abysmal and we weren’t constantly subjected to brazen untruths; statements which transcend political spin and classify solely as unabashed propaganda and the denial of reality. Managing public perception now trumps honesty. This Government has crossed the Rubicon when it comes to spin versus deception.

The political propaganda which is being peddled daily in respect of every aspect of Bermuda political life is mind-boggling; whether it’s inflated public school graduation rates, business travelers misrepresented as tourists or the affiliations of whistleblowers and the sources of leaked files. It’s not just unfavourable reports that are rewritten, but facts too.

Rather than communicate honestly and forthrightly with the public, Government has assembled a massive public relations apparatus designed mostly to prevent genuine communication. It’s a sad condemnation when, in the case of the suppressed Johns Hopkins report, saving face is more important than saving lives.

These incidents aren’t aberrations, they’re an operating principle that was enshrined into Bermuda’s political folklore after the 2003 election where the aspiring Premier notoriously conceded that he and his colleagues ‘misled you because we had to’ during an election campaign. Here we go again four and a half years later.

This psychosis has become so pervasive that the PLP party’s website regularly engages in the blatant misrepresentation of quotes, and even fabricates new quotes from fragments of others. This began months ago when the party propagandists edited aspiring candidate Ianthia Wade’s public condemnation of the party’s leadership into a ringing endorsement, inserted a full stop in the middle of a sentence of mine while ignoring whole paragraphs so they could attack me over the Workplace Equity Act, or most recently blatantly lied about the opening line of a Royal Gazette editorial so they could twist it into an (easily debunked) admission of pro-UBP bias.

It’s no wonder that Bermudians are becoming increasingly disconnected, disgusted and dismayed with the state of Bermuda’s political leadership and are cynically resorting to staying home on Election Day. It’s why bumper stickers like “I love my country, it’s the Government that scares me” don’t just make you laugh, but nod in agreement.

Presumably if truth were on the Government’s side they wouldn’t have to resort to this kind of unprecedented and pathological deception; the desperation is an admission of failure.

When critically important reports on the state of our health care system are surgically removed from existence and filed in the morgue, one wonders what ever happened to the concept of “First, do no harm”.

To have first hand proof that politics is trumping the health care needs of Bermuda is disturbing to say the least. Secret weekend meetings where a closed circle of hand-selected loyalists plot the future of health care in Bermuda – with the Premier himself revealed as the not-so-secret back seat driver of a portfolio where he has massive private business conflicts of interest – runs counter to the public interest.

It was offensive enough when the cover-ups concerned allegations of improper conduct by public officials with taxpayer funds; but to now be covering up vitally important but damning assessments of our public health infrastructure is more than “embarrassing”, it’s dangerous.

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