3. “Why have you not come to Asano Park? You are badly needed there.”
Without even looking up from his work, the doctor said in a tired voice, “This is my station.”
“But there are many people dying on the riverbank over there.”
“The first duty,” the doctor said, “is to take care of the slightly wounded.”
“Why—when there are many who are heavily wounded on the riverbank?”
The doctor moved to another patient. “In an emergency like this,” he said, as if he were reciting from a manual, “the first task is to help as many as possible—to save as many lives as possible. There is no hope for the heavily wounded. They will die. We can’t bother with them.”
“That may be right from a medical standpoint—” Mr. Tanimoto began, but then he looked out across the field, where the many dead lay close and intimate with those who were still living, and he turned away without finishing his sentence, angry now with himself.
In this exchange in Chapter Three, Hersey depicts the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that many of the uninjured felt when faced with so many others’ pain and death. Mr. Tanimoto tries to blame the doctors for not doing more to help. However, in this scene he realizes that there are not enough doctors to care for the thousands of injured people, and that most of the seriously injured will simply be left to die. Hersey mentions in Chapter Two the fact that out of 150 doctors in Hiroshima, sixty-five were killed and most of the rest were wounded. Out of 1,780 nurses, 1,654 were either dead or too badly hurt to help anyone. Compounding the tragedy of Hiroshima was this lack of medical care. Doctors and nurses were either killed or injured, or they had no access to hospitals, medical supplies, and resources. Many injured people could have survived the explosion with proper treatment, but there was simply no one to provide it. In this passage, Hersey forces us to face this fact, and thus, other ramifications of the atom bomb explosion.
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