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23.09.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Honour The Dead, But Not At The Expense Of The Living

By Statesman
Editorial: Honour The Dead, But Not At The Expense Of The Living
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TODAY, at the forecourt of State House, the bodies of three urologists, Prof John Kwateboi Marmon Quartey, 82, Dr Isaac Kofi Afedzi Bentsi, 64, and Dr Benjamin Kofi Osei-Wiafe, 34, will be laid in state. A befitting burial for three men whose passing away in a road accident on Saturday August 27 threw the whole nation into a state of mourning. Indeed, the serious efforts being made by police officers and motorists alike to see to the implementation of the Road Traffic Act, 2004, can be partly attributed to indignation that the nation felt with the loss of these three heroes. But, The Statesman is extremely disturbed by the action of the management of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital which was taken today, funeral day: the Out Patients Clinic will not be opened. This means that, for the entire day, only a skeletal staff will be maintained for the 17 clinical departments/units of Korle-Bu, Ghana's premier hospital.
One could argue that this is one of the greatest gestures that could be made to honour the three dead doctors: for Ghana's leading health centre to close its doors to outpatients, keeping only a token handful of staff to attend to emergency cases. It certainly would not be the first time for such a gesture to be made by an organisation. Ministries, District Offices, governmental, as well as private sector, departments have been known to close down for staff members' funerals. With the exception of the lost productivity and revenue, most of these sanctioned bereavement days are without consequence. But not always so. The story is told of how one day, some years back, no scheduled Ghana Airways flight took off because all of the in-flight crew members wanted to pay their respect by appearing in person at the funeral of a senior pilot who had died in a road accident. One can only imagine how many people were inconvenienced by this.
Which brings us to a burning and, given the situation today at Korle-Bu, urgent question: Is this the best way to honour the dead, by putting at substantial risk and disadvantage the lives of the living? It echoes, in metaphor, the traditional system which demands that a dead chief be accompanied to his village by other sacrificial heads. One would have thought that such preternatural sycophancy was long dead. Remember, the three doctors lost their lives in the course of their duties, on their way back from the Sunyani Government Hospital, where they were offering outreach services. How ironic that on the day that their bodies are being laid to rest, Ghanaians will be denied the benefit of full-scale outpatient services at Korle-Bu.
The message that is being sent to the public by Korle-Bu seems, to us, to be this: saving lives may not, after all, be as important as observing and maintaining the curious custom of putting the dead before the living. While we do not condemn this country's tradition of celebrating the dead in an elaborate manner, we believe that using the untimely death of three people who were committed to saving lives in order to put at risk the lives of countless others is not only profane, it is dishonourable.
May the professional dedication of Prof John Kwateboi Marmon Quartey, Dr Isaac Kofi Afedzi Bentsi, and Dr Benjamin Kofi Osei-Wiafe always be remembered. May their deaths encourage us to place more importance on safety and more value on the worth of life. May their families find peace, and continue to be comforted by the words, kindness and love of those in their embrace. May the souls of these three men rest in perfect peace.