Outrage in Bolivia After TV Channel Broadcasts Man Dying of Coronavirus

A TV channel in Bolivia sparked widespread outrage on Thursday after broadcasting a Chinese coronavirus patient dying as doctors desperately tried to save his life, the Bolivian newspaper Pagina Siete reported.

The No Lies program, aired nightly on the Santa Cruz-based PAT channel, showed the final half-hour of a patient’s life as he suffered a heart attack and the doctors tried to revive him while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

“We see in phase two that there is a patient in a critical state, if we can get closer,” one of the producers is heard saying at one point, as they follow the man to film the doctor’s attempts at resuscitation.

Santa Cruz is the region of Bolivia most severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, having recorded around 60 percent of the country’s 21,000 coronavirus cases and half of its 679 deaths. Producers said they aired the distressing segment to draw attention to the crisis and force the country’s health authorities into action.

“It is necessary for people to see this and become aware, take care of their health and their own,” said presenter Jimena Antelo in response to comments that they should pull the broadcast. “On PAT, we feel it is necessary to show the reality that we are going through as a society and a country in this situation.”

Many people took issue with the program, including Bolivia’s ombudswoman, Nadia Cruz, who denounced the program as “sensationalism” and accusing them of “repeatedly and morbidly” broadcasting “images showing cardiopulmonary treatment being carried out on a person, which unfortunately ended in death.” As the country’s ombudswoman, Cruz is in charge of investigating complaints against the government or public organizations and taking action if necessary.

“[This program] evidently conflicts with the national legal order,” she continued, warning that it could “generate a kind of collective fear.”

According to the man’s relatives, they began searching for medical attention at various hospitals where he was rejected five times. “They told me ‘there is no field’, you have to take it and there are no ambulances,” said one of the relatives. “I don’t know what we are going to do.”

In a last-ditch attempt to save his life, the man’s relatives turned to the group of volunteers known as “Angels against Coronavirus” that provides free medical care in the Juana Azurduy de Padilla Educational Unit in the Alto San Pedro de Santa Cruz area. However, he passed away before getting the necessary treatment.

According to the latest statistics, Bolivia has recorded a total of 21,500 cases of the coronavirus and 697 fatalities. With a population of just 11.35 million, this places it proportionally above many of its regional neighbors, although truly reliable date remains very hard to come by.

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at [email protected]

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