October 11, 2012

The Tragic Consequences of Crisis Volunteering

A charity telethon after the 2010 Haiti earthquake prompted Andy Day, an Indiana anesthesiologist, and his wife, Jennifer, a nurse, to head to the crisis zone.

But they had never been trained in disaster medicine, and their experience in Haiti highlights the shortcomings in international disaster medicine.

As the Days tell the journalist Amy Costello in the Tiny Spark podcast, they discovered a faulty drug supply and inadequate recordkeeping that led to problems for patients.

The Days put their best skills to work, but in Haiti, lack of leadership for medical volunteers meant critically injured people sometimes waited for days for treatment because doctors didn't realize they needed to bring supplies and medications with them.

And medical experts believe many patients may have had limbs amputated unnecessarily because medical teams arrived too late or because they lacked specialized skills in how to work in international crisis zones.

Such situations cause leaders in international emergency medicine to say it's time for humanitarian charities and others to change a system that allows volunteers to assume that first-class medical skills and good intentions are all they need. Listen to learn more.

Download the transcript of this podcast.