Light and practical help in dark times
Every year, humedica asks its registered volunteers for their support of a special kind of mission abroad. A kind of mission for people who, living in underprivileged countries anyway, have to serve a sentence in prison in even less privileged conditions. Some of them have never had a trial in court, others have, but the legal proceedings cannot be compared to the way law is practised in Germany.
The following words are part of the code of ethics of the World Medical Association, the Declaration of Geneva, which is a more contemporary version of the Hippocratic Oath: “At the time of being admitted as a Member of the medical profession I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.” Humanity: a way of living together that, in many situations, seems to have lost its right to exist. Particularly in situations where people serve a sentence in prison, whether it be deserved or not, justified or unjustified within our German understanding of law.
Yet, together with our partner organisation, PFI (Prison Fellowship International), humedica doctors bring humanity and practical medical aid to prisoners worldwide. PFI staffers cooperate with local authorities and prison managements worldwide in order to improve the living conditions of the detainees and make them as humane as possible. This includes both physical and emotional support.
“In addition to medical care, another significant aspect of our work in the prisons of Burundi was pastoral care”, reports Dr. Paul Hermssen after his mission in Burundi. Together with his colleagues, Dr. Mechthild Wortmann from Ankum and Dr. Rüdiger Lange from Karlsruhe, the dentist delivered medical treatment to prisoners in Burundi.
“Our mission was very much a matter of taking the time for our patients, of turning towards them instead of turning away, so that they could feel our sympathy and regain their lost confidence. During our whole stay in Burundi, the prisoners’ respect, great interest and deep gratitude were our daily companions.”
In a first moment, it may seem difficult to feel deep sympathy for a prisoner. We tend to judge that they certainly deserve their punishment, that their guilt has certainly been proven, that their imprisonment could not be but justified.
But law is not always practised in the way we know it. While a thief might be punished with a fine in Germany, a person convicted of the same offence in Africa, Asia or South America, where they grew up in conditions of poverty, might have to face years of detainment in very inhumane conditions: Locked up in a tiny cell with numerous other detainees, without access to medical care.
humedica e. V.
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