As details continue to emerge of Jimmy Savile’s horrific crimes, a bioethicist is questioning the complicity of healthcare workers in allowing for the abuses. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Professor Ruth Chadwick inveighs those who gave Savile access to vulnerable patients:
“Even if wrongdoing was not suspected, however, (and even the parents of abused individuals did not believe them, in the case of some celebrities who have now been exposed), patients should have a right to protection from the intrusion of non-healthcare personnel.”
When Savile died in 2011, he was fondly remembered as one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. For half a century he had been a slightly eccentric, but popular DJ, media personality and charity fund-raiser. Not long afterwards, however, allegations of sexual abuse began to emerge. It turns out that the manipulative Savile had used his position to rape and molest hundreds of people, mostly young girls. He even molested young patients in hospitals.
Chadwick suggests that the aura of Savile’s celebrity impaired the judgement of hospital staff:
“The whole sorry episode suggests a need to pay attention to something I have touched on before in editorials, the question of what people ‘see’. Do we have here a case of knowingly turning a blind eye, or simply not seeing what is in front of one?”
Her solution for the issue, however, may raise more eyebrows than her diagnosis. She suggests that research into biological ways of shielding people against star power:
“At a time when there is much discussion of moral enhancement, it may be pertinent and pressing to address specifically what strategies might be most effective in addressing the apparent power of celebrity to undermine moral judgment.”
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