More Samaritans needed to raise the bar

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Doctor Truong Quang Dinh (2nd from right) and his colleagues from Ho Chi Minh City take care of a baby born without a rectum in Phu Yen Province. Photo from the doctor's Facebook page

A group of pediatricians from a Ho Chi Minh City canceled a sightseeing tour in the central coastal province of Phu Yen last week to save a seven-day-old baby born without a rectum.

A two-hour surgery by doctor Truong Quang Dinh, deputy director of HCMC Children's Hospital No.2, has given the little boy a chance to survive after his parents had decided to let him die.

Dinh said it took some persuading for the parents to change their mind and allow him to perform the operation, even though his team promised to work for free. He said the boy also had a heart condition that he would treat later, and a light case of Down Syndrome.

The good doctor's Facebook post about the surgery and new lease of life given to the boy received more than a thousand "Likes" and admiring comments were made on various news websites.

Just two days earlier, on May 7, young sergeant Nguyen Xuan Minh of Ho Chi Minh City was also featured on social networks after he left his station in pouring rain to help carry boxes that had fallen off motorbikes on a flooded road to higher, dry ground.

He was featured in the "best photo of the week," and encomiums were heaped on him, including "urban hero" and someone enacting a "modern fairytale."

It is always good to acknowledge, appreciate, encourage and praise people for positive actions, but what has happened in the two cases cited above seems like we are overdoing it a bit.

If you think about it, it is the job of doctors to save people's lives and that of the police office to help people in trouble.

But we seem to have reached a stage where mere performance of one's duty or even going beyond the call of duty in any small way makes superheroes of people.

This has happened because people now have more villains to detest and fear and a shortage of heroes to look up to.

Take for instance, what happened at the Hanoi Preventive Health Center recently. The center's staff tried to cheat a four-month-old baby off his full vaccination dose.

The father noticed that the nurse was not throwing the bottle away after the injection, and then he saw there was still liquid left in it, probably to be given to another baby.

He made a fuss about it at the hospital, as would any parent after paying VND1.2 million (US$57) for shot and having their children's immunity compromised.

The nurse in charge said she was not in good health that day, and the center's leaders promised to deal with her adequately as if they themselves had nothing to do with the fraud.

The case was discovered on April 19, but details were released to local media only three weeks later, possibly in an attempt to stave off public outrage.

But such evasive actions may not be necessary. People have learned to accept the ugly truth, that it is "normal" that hospital staffs treat patients and/or relatives with indifference till extra payments are made. People have accepted that police officers are scary men handing out punishments arbitrarily.

Doctor Dang and police officer Minh both have done good deeds, but this does not warrant celebrating this as an extra-terrestrial event.

If the doctor had followed his original schedule and gone on his sightseeing trip, or if the officer had not left his station to help people, no one would have criticized them. People would have considered it normal, business as usual, just as one has to bribe to get a job, bribe when caught in a legal case, or bribe to speed up an administrative procedure.

Sometimes an official is complimented for not taking bribes, while that should be considered normal.

We really need more doctor Dinhs and officer Minhs to reset the definition of what is normal, so we do not have very low expectations of people in general those in public service in particular.

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