Life Esidemeni tragedy at the centre of art and essay competition hosted by WSBS ahead of big faculty symposium. 

THE LIFE Esidemeni tragedy, which left 144 state mental health patients dead, will be the subject of an essay and art competition held by the Wits Student Bioethics Society (WSBS) ahead of the Faculty of Health Science’s annual ethic symposium in March.

The competition opened for entries on February 1 and will close on March 1. The art competition is open for registered students from all faculties, however, the essay competition is only open to faculty of health sciences students.

WINNING ART: The 2017 first place art piece entitled The Quakes by Allyson Smith. Photo: Provided

Every year the competition is run in the month preceding the Undergraduate Ethics Alive Symposium on March 14 at the Wits Medical School. The competition was started with the purpose of getting students interested and engaged with issues of bioethics leading up to the symposium.

The topic for the symposium focuses around the Life Esidimeni with the essay and art competition aiming to bring health science students together to examine their roles as advocates for the rights of patients.
WSBS chairperson and fourth year MBBCh student Rubina Valodia said the competition aims to inform students about the Life Esidimeni tragedy where mental patients in the care of the Gauteng province were handed over to NGO’s who were unable to care for them properly. At least 144 of the patients died.

“The negligence and incompetence that led to the Life Esidimeni tragedy was preventable, yet it caused the deaths of over 140 patients. The WSBS wants to examine the role that students can play to prevent something similar happening in the future,” she said.

The 2017 winner of the art competition and fourth year BSc physiotherapy student, Allyson Smith, said that she entered the competition last year as it was “a great way to merge my love for art as well as my passion for physio and health sciences as a whole.”

“It encourages students to have conversations about their role in how we are moving forward in health sciences. It encourages us to analyse and critically think about how we are going to evolve,” said Smith.

The winning essay writer will win R5000 and the essay will be published in the South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, the art competition winner will receive R1000. The prizes for the competition are sponsored by the Medical Protection Society.