Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

The brothers’ keeper

Posted by Ron Coleman on October 23, 2007

Here’s a heartwarming and amazing story about conjoined Egyptian twins meeting the Massachusetts philanthropist, Ray Tye, who paid for their surgery.  It’s just astonishing that they were able to do it, and that this one man stepped forward to make it possible.  It’s also a beautiful story about America.

But this part sounded a really sour note, and I don’t know what to do with it:

Now 6, the boys had been brought from Egypt in 2001 to be separated, but upon their arrival doctors determined they would require a more serious and much more expensive surgery. After 18 months in the United States, doctors were considering canceling the surgery because they did not have the money needed to pay the hospital bills.

“They were going to be sent home to die,” Tye said.

So Tye’s foundation donated $100,000 for the boys’ 2003 surgery, which took place at the North Texas Hospital for Children in Dallas.

Gosh.  “They were being sent home to die” — is that really fair?  Is it accurate?  Is it precise?   Who was condemning them to death?  Whose responsibility was their salvation?  How much should the doctors have donated?  How about the people or the government of Egypt?  How about Bill Gates or Michael Jordan?

I just don’t know.


10 Responses to “The brothers’ keeper”

  1. “They were being sent home to die” — is that really fair? Is it accurate? Is it precise? Who was condemning them to death?

    Fair, accurate, and precise. I don’t think the phrase connotes condemnation; rather, it simply connotes resignation. I’ve heard the same phrase used in regard to terminal patients who preferred to spend their last days at home with family.

    And then the phrase was used by Mr. Tye, the man who financed their surgery. I can easily hear it as part of a larger statement. “No one could do anything. They were being sent home to die. And I just had to help.”

    Honestly, I’m not hearing what you’re hearing here.

  2. Did you ever “send someone home to die”? Could you?

    He didn’t say, “They were just going home to die,” Martin.

  3. Highway said

    I heard the same thing that Ron did. Now, Martin may be right, it may have been pulled out of a lot of other context, but I doubt it.

    You guys probably already know I’m a cold-hearted libertarian, but this is one of those things that kinda rankles me. The assumption always seems to be that because something CAN be done towards someone’s life, it MUST be done, and if it can’t be afforded by the people it’s for, then someone else MUST pay for it. Like prescription drugs that are ‘needed’ by people, even though they didn’t exist 5 years ago, and people lived and died and dealed with things.

    I know it doesn’t help my cred as a humanitarian, but we chastise people for living outside their means all the time. People who run up huge credit debt buying a house that’s too expensive for them, or a car that’s too expensive for them, or who get fat eating too much food for them, or for having more children than they can afford. But suddenly that has to stop when it’s a medical procedure? Whenever it turns into ‘well, they could die’, that all goes out the window.

  4. zach. said


    the reason it breaks down is that living outside your means is a choice, being born as a terminally conjoined twin (or as parents, having terminally conjoined twins) is not a choice. Now that doesn’t get really to the heart of what Ron’s asking, and to be honest I don’t have a great answer for him (does anyone?). But I think approaching this from a libertarian standpoint is simply barking up the wrong tree.

  5. Jack said

    I couldn’t have done it.

    Me personally, if I felt their suffering was great enough, or there was a real chance at death or just a life of misery, and I had the funds, I’d have done it.

    That’s what being a philanthropist is. And a Christian in my case.

    I have a simple personal rule about these kinda things.
    If it will do the person more good to solve the problem for themselves, or if the people around them can, then don’t get in their way. It will benefit them to fix their own crap.

    If they can’t solve it for themselves and it’s something serious enough that it is truly dangerous or will cause real suffering, then it’s my job to fix it or better yet prevent that from happening in the first place, if possible. And of course every now and again I’ll step in simply because I can and feel like it. If I help someone and that makes me happy, then that makes me happy and I don’t care about the opinion of others, nor do I wrestle with any greater impact or precedent. I do it cause I like doing that kinda thing.

    Now I know everybody has their own line, different ideas about where the line is. So it ain’t a simple societal or cultural or political rule, but it is a simple personal rule.

    But when I as a man can fix or prevent suffering, or save a life, I’ll do that. I don’t need other people’s permission or opinions about it, one way or the other, I’ll juts do it myself. Because I can. And because I will.

    I think a lot of people want to turn everything they can do individually into a societal requirement, and everything a society can do into a personal norm or demand. Personally I don’t think it works that way, or should, but that’s me.

    Anyways, my brother is the man I can help when he needs it, and is the man I won’t when it will do him better to solve the issue for himself.

    That’s my way a looking at it.

    By the way, since this was brought up, and no I’m not saying anything about anybody in particular, here or elsewhere, just saying I found the synchronicity of this interesting, I got this article sent to me by a pal last night.

    Atheists Less Likely to “Do Good”:

    But remember, it’s Canada we’re talking about.
    Nuff said.

  6. Jack said

    “the reason it breaks down is that living outside your means is a choice, being born as a terminally conjoined twin (or as parents, having terminally conjoined twins) is not a choice. Now that doesn’t get really to the heart of what Ron’s asking,…”

    Oh, and what Zach says.
    Mixing voluntary irresponsible money use and philanthropic charity money intentionally well spent is like mixing crocodiles and bengal tigers. Sure, it’ll make for an entertaining show and something fun to talk about, but it’s not really gonna lead anywhere constructive as a gudie for living.

  7. Jack said

    “gudie for living.”

    Speaking of which, Microsoft ain’t much of a guide for spelling either.

  8. jan said

    “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” Edward Everett Hale

    (I’m agnostic btw, not atheist, if that matters. I know that there are some people who think that those who don’t believe in G_d aren’t capable of having morals, but I try to prove them wrong…)


  9. Well, since religion has crept into this, a survey of Google results suggests that Ray Tye, the agency of salvation for these children from Egypt, is Jewish. So that makes us a little proud, too.

  10. Highway said

    As far as I’m concerned, with what I understand as Ron’s question, it doesn’t make a difference what causes the condition. What I read as the point of his question is ‘what price is another person’s life’. And my answer is that it’s entirely up to the person you’re asking to save your life. I don’t think you can attach some moral component to it, because you won’t draw a line with it. Is it immoral of me to not spend 5 bucks to save someone’s life? If it is, then is it immoral of me to not spend 500,000, or 5 million bucks, or all I have, to save someone’s life? If it’s a different answer, what made it different? YOUR judgment as an outsider. That’s it.

    I’m not making any judgment about the donation the Tye foundation made. Good for them. But what I hear, implicit in the ‘we’re sending them home to die’ statement, is that it’s someone else’s moral failure, as judged by the speaker. And I do not accept that judgement.

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