Compassion: An ethical dilemma?
Knowing my impulsive, emotional self, what shall I do if a source asks me for money in a needy situaiton?
'First, do no harm,' said Hippocrates in his medical oath, and 'second do what you can to relieve suffering' said the Dalai Lama in 'Ethics for the new millenium'.
So, I tell myself that I shall strive to be human. My responsibility as a person comes before my responsility as a journalist, or as an anything, I was taught. As a person I have a duty to protect human rights. I shall not always get it right, but I shall always look at the broader picture, which is to relieve suffering.
As a wise woman, I shall try to weigh up all the circumstances, and I shall seek advice. For example, I shall not give money if there is any question of criminal proceedings (actual or pending); if, no matter how humanitarian, the giving might be misconstrued as obtaining information by false pretences; if it prefers the need of one source over another's; or if it is obviously against the public interest. Then I shall not give money.
This means that in every event, I shall apply my compassion with restraint, conscious of the problems which might arise. I shall ask, will giving financial help compromise my impartiality, even if I'm giving for humanitarian reasons? Will there be a conflict of interests? Whose interests am I serving: the person in front of me at the expense of the wider good?
My goal is to uncover the real causes of the suffering and to promote the likely best solutions. If giving money interferes with this goal, then I shall not do so. And if I do, I shall disclose any payment I make, as I am required to do by law and ethics.
I shall strive to practise compassion so as to achieve its wider objectives, in such a way that it's effect will reach the wider good.
In other words, I shall have to watch myself!