Lifeboat Ethics

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LIFEBOAT ETHICS (Mother Love and Child Death in Northeast Brazil) Nancy Scheper-Hughes

NORTHEAST BRAZIL
* Rural areas – farms and ranches, sugar plantations and mills * Vast region of equally vast social and developmental problems * River is heavily infested
* Its nine states are the poorest in Brazil and are representative of the Thirld World * High rate of infant and child mortality. Life expectancy – 40 years; 1 million children die annually * Women are forced into domestic work

* No breastfeeding, subsistence gardens, stable marriages and multiple adult caretakers * Women enter “scab” wage labor and get a dollar a day * Marriages are brittle, single parenting is the norm

ALTO DE CRUZEIRO
* Oldest, largest and poorest shantytown surrounding Bom Jesus de Mata, Pernambuco, Brazil * Neglected Sugar Plantation Zone; Modern trappings conceal hunger, sickness, and death. * Deeply rooted in a history of feudalism, exploitation and institutionalized dependency Stoicism And Equanimity Towards Child Death

* High expectancy of death
* Thrivers and survivors vs. infants born already “wanting to die” * Survivors were nurtured while stigmatized infants were left to die of death * Mortal selective neglect
* Passive infanticide (Martin Harris)
ALTO WOMEN AND CHILD DEATH
* Experience 9.5 pregnancies, 3.5 child deaths and 1.5 still-births * 70% of all child deaths in the Alto occur in the first six months of life; 82% die by the end of the first year * Of all deaths in the community each year, about 45% are of children under the age of five MOTHER LOVE

* Attenuated and delayed with consequences for infant survival * The emotional detachment of mothers contributes to the spiral of high mortality * Learning when to let go of a child and learning when it is safe to let onself love her child * Frequent child death remains a powerful shaper of maternal thinking and practice CHILD DEATH

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