COVID-19, Ahuviya Sandak: A contrast in responding to a tragedy - opinion

From the beginning until now, an appropriate reaction from the police is lacking.

ICHILOV HOSPITAL team members wearing protective gear earlier this year as they work in the coronavirus department of the Tel Aviv hospital. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
ICHILOV HOSPITAL team members wearing protective gear earlier this year as they work in the coronavirus department of the Tel Aviv hospital.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
 It is not easy to face difficult situations and to take responsibility even when painful. But that is what is expected of mature individuals who are in positions of responsibility. There are some positions in which a person operates under stress, in which the life and well-being of others is in your hands, in which decisions have serious repercussions. And humans, no matter how well intentioned, how well trained, and how careful, will unfortunately sometimes be involved in situations where they may have erred in judgment or action. 
One such calling is a doctor, particularly a physician in an intensive care unit in a hospital. The pandemic that is buffeting our society for a year now, has put particular stress on medical professionals, and two weeks ago the unthinkable happened. A coronavirus patient in Ichilov hospital died after his breathing tube became detached and it seems that through human error, that was not recognized on time to intervene. 
It is a terrible tragedy; a relatively young individual dies due to an accident precipitated by the stress of the situation.
What happens after such a calamity is equally important as it reveals what kind of people are in this sensitive position. In this case, Ichilov hospital chief Prof. Roni Gamzu appeared in front of the news cameras and stated unequivocally: “The patient’s death is my responsibility.” He took full responsibility for the tragic incident and stated clearly that a proper investigation is being conducted. 
There was no shirking responsibility, blaming others, or passing the buck. He clearly stated that as director of the hospital, the bottom line rests with him. But that was not all; he, as well as other hospital officials, met with the family and shared in their grief. They updated them about the investigation and remained in touch. He then turned to his staff with two messages – one of encouragement and one of learning lessons so that such an incident is not repeated.
Individuals in positions of authority should take responsibility. The Biden administration has tapped an Orthodox Jewish woman, Stephanie Pollack, to be the deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Possibly among her credentials is the fact that in her previous position as Massachusetts Transportation Secretary she was able to say in response to a question about taking responsibility for a motorist’s death: “I don’t know the answer legally. But yes, morally, do I feel responsible, and responsible for the motorcyclists who were killed in New Hampshire? Yes.”
Unfortunately, it seems that not every person or agency is big enough to confront difficult incidents in a responsible manner. It is now over a month since 16-year-old Ahuviya Sandak died in a car crash involving a police vehicle and from the beginning until now, an appropriate reaction from the police is lacking. 
IN THE case of a fatal accident it is usually the responsibility of the police to inform the family of the tragedy. This should be no less true when the police themselves are involved in the accident. Shockingly, the police never informed the Sandak family of their son’s death at the time. Since then, the police have had ample time to respond to this tragedy, both to the family and to the public. 
But there has been nothing forthcoming. There has been no expression of sympathy or sorrow (although the prosecutor did manage to express sorrow in court). The police have yet to meet with the family to update them on an investigation. There has been no statement that there are lessons to be learned to avoid such an unfortunate event in the future. The police department has expressed nothing about the terrible loss of a young man’s life. 
This silence makes it seem as if the police view Ahuviya and his friends as less than human, as stray dogs whose demise in an accident (if that is what it was) can simply be ignored and will soon be forgotten. It is understandable that the police need to be careful to not say something that may incriminate themselves, yet over a month has gone by and it is astoundingly pathetic that there has not been a statement released by the police addressing the death of Ahuviya. 
A statement by the police expressing sadness for the loss of human life during an encounter with the police would do a lot to restore the public’s faith that the police are true public servants and have the public’s interest in mind. 
Our sages tell us that the Jewish royal family traces itself back to Judah and commences with King David because both Judah and King David had the trait of taking responsibility after they had a lapse of judgment. Kudos to Prof. Roni Gamzu and his staff for acting in the mold of true Jewish heroes and a huge disgrace to the police department for acting so irresponsibly and hiding behind a blue wall of shame.
The writer is a professor of neuroscience at Bar-Ilan University who frequently writes about topics of Jewish interest in a range of venues.