• Stavros Papagianneas

The Death of a Gerontologist


Dimitris Kampanaros committed suicide last week Wednesday. He was the owner of a nursing home in the northern Athens suburb of Agios Stefanos. A few days before his desperate act, two residents of the home have tested positive for Covid-19 - himself as well.


The gerontologist was very dedicated to his work, had a great sense of duty and, immense respect for his residents. Katerina, an old friend from the Italian School in Athens, told me that she has been in contact with him for her mother and that he was an exceptional person.


When the pandemic broke out in March, he took the initiative to stay inside the building for 65 days together with the residents and his staff.


Although Athens has successfully managed the first corona wave things are now more difficult. Greece entered the second wave of the pandemic in August and the health system is feeling the pressure of the gradual increase in incubated patients. Same situation as in many other European countries.


When EU leaders hold an informal video conference on 29 October to discuss the unfolding pandemic disaster, the possibility of another lockdown will be on the agenda. As efforts to limit the spread with soft methods don't seem to work in overpopulated areas, a new lock down is a radical step that nobody wants. Lockdown is indicative of failure to manage the pandemic.


A slow economic rebound is already losing steam, and the social backlash against the latest restrictions is gathering momentum. There is pressure to come up with something coming close to a coherent EU response. However, lack of unanimity has always been Europe's worst enemy.


The planet is beset by giant problems that defy political and healthcare boundaries. Doctors and healthcare staff are fighting a world war against a pandemic that could have been prevented. The reports were there, the alarming scenarios were there but, the budget, the long-term planning and the co-operation were not there.


Certain members of the dominant political class are more concerned about the number of votes than the wellbeing of the citizens. Look to Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. There is also the type of autocrats like Erdogan or Bolsonaro elected through manipulation of the public opinion, lies or strategic marketing promoting imaginary enemies. For them, domestic problems are always coming from outside but never from the country itself.


Politics is not about staying in power whatever it takes. It is about managing the state for the people and by the people. It is about what you can do for the village, the city, the country, the continent and the whole world. It is not about how to become rich. It is about caring, being empathetic and having compassion. It is about taking difficult decisions, being transparent, communicating well and being pro-active.


There are still many things that we need to do to save humanity and the planet. But what if we require our politicians to take a political version of the Hippocratic Oath? After all, when we elect a government, we are entrusting the health of politics to their hands.


The Oath of Hippocrates is one of the oldest binding documents in history. It is still held sacred by physicians: to treat the ill to the best of one's ability, to preserve a patient's privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation. This oath of ethics is one of the most widely known Greek medical texts.


Translating the Hippocratic Oath from medicine to politics is easy. You don't have to change a single word.


For example, with the modern version, a physician vows, among other things, that:


If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.


All of us, including politicians, have to focus on what we do every day with an eye to the future generations. To ask ourselves if we are acting in "the finest traditions" of our vocations and will know "the joy of healing" those who need our help.

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© Copyright 2020 Stavros Papagianneas

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