A 28-year-old pregnant woman unable to pay for care was refused admission last week into a hospital in Oaxaca, Mexico — about 200 miles southeast of Mexico City — so she gave birth instead in a courtyard at the hospital.
Incredibly, someone was there with a camera. So a picture of this wound up on the front page of this week’s La Razón de México, a nationally-distributed weekly tabloid.
We need to continue discussing the use of alarming or possibly offensive images on page one, so I feel duty-bound to report all this to you. Yet, I just can’t bring myself to post what I consider to be one of the most extreme examples of this I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an edited version:
The headline says, roughly…
Hospital in Oaxaca forces an indigent woman to give birth in the grass
…so you can probably visualize what the unedited version looks like.
If you must see it, click here. But you’ve been warned.
The picture itself is credited to Eloy Pacheco of Voz 21.
A young journalist in Mexico City tipped me off about this story Sunday night and asked me what I thought. I had to admit: I am horrified. Terrified. Disgusted. The picture makes me feel ill. I’m moved to tears.
But it’s also an image that I’ll never be able to scrape from my brain. If you’re in the business of reporting this story — or in the business of advocating for better health care in Oaxaca — then, that might be just what you want. At the very least, a lot of people were talking about this Sunday.
The journalist told me the cover — published Sunday, evidently — made the rounds this weekend on Twitter and was hotly debated throughout Mexico.
Here’s the online version of the story from La Razón. I ran it through Google Translate. Here are some talking points, as best I can tell:
- All this happened last Wednesday, Oct. 2.
- This is the second time in three months this same thing has happened at this same hospital.
- The problem at the hospital reportedly has to do with labor issues — pause for the sound of sad, bitter ironic laughter — strikes that have left the hospital short-staffed. These strikes started in July and are still going on.
- The hospital declined to treat the woman but she and her husband “remained in place walking the halls of the Health Center waiting for the shift change or a doctor or nurse to help , but no one did.”
- The woman’s screams brought work in the hospital to a standstill. At that point, a nurse came to her rescue.
- “The baby was reviewed and determined to be a ‘healthy male’ two kilos 400 grams” — or, about 5 lbs, 5 oz. So, at least, there’s somewhat of a happy ending.
- The incident is under investigation.
It’s one hell of a story. And it’s one horrifying cover.
The questions that still trouble me…
- Am I right to feel repulsed by this image?
- By feeling that way, am I imposing my American values on a Mexican newspaper?
- Would Mexican readers feel any differently about this image? Most of the tweets I spot-checked via Google Translate last night were fairly negative. But, as you know, Twitter doesn’t necessarily give one a fair cross-section of public opinion.
- I was immediately concerned for the mother and her own family and how they might feel about the picture. Did the newspaper have their permission to use the image? Does it matter?
- And, naturally, I’m filled with anger toward the hospital for what I see here. Is that fair? And is it significant that I worked my way through three or four other emotions before I managed to feel some indignation for how this woman was treated by the Centro de Salud de San Felipe Jalapa de Díaz?
I’m eager to hear your thoughts on these points or any other. We still have moderation turned on for our comments, but I’ll try to get them approved as quickly as I can today.