Life and Death in the Third World

Susan M. Vitalis

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 1/1/1996

Issue: The Edges of Life (Vol. 16, No 1, Winter, 1996)

We in the United States usually think about death only when we are faced with it and cannot ignore it. In many African countries death is a daily reality of life that cannot be ignored. There is no such thing as the denial of death. This is especially true in countries that are at war. When people rise in the morning, they do not know if they will make it through the day alive—without being shot or afflicted with some disease that is untreatable in their country. Even if it is treatable, they may live a three day’s walk away from the nearest health facility. The practice of medicine in much of Africa is immensely different than in the United States, and the ethical dilemmas that are encountered are just as different. My comments in this article will reflect my experiences from working in the United States and with Samaritan’s Purse in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda.

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