In An Imperfect Offering, he tells his own extraordinary story of being a doctor, but also discusses the nature of humanitarian action today and our responsibilities as citizens of the world.
Born in Britain in 1960, James Orbinski's family moved to Canada when he was seven years old. As a young man, he became a medic to learn how to help, and deal with, the suffering of others. From then on he was plunged into many highly demanding situations, including being Head of Mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) during the Rwandan genocide; engaging with the politics of humanitarian work as the President of MSF; being in New York when the towers fell on 9/11; co-founding Dignitas International (an AIDS charity); and finally, returning to Rwanda on the 10th anniversary of the crisis there.
In An Imperfect Offering, Orbinski not only tells his own inspiring story but is also remarkably provocative about what governments and agencies should and shouldn't be doing to help the world's poor and very sick. At the same time, he addresses what part each of us can play, so that we never lose sight of the dignity of those being helped, or deny them the right to act in their own lives. His conclusion is blunt and profound: 'Humanity is lost or saved one person at a time, one intention at a time, and one action at a time. There are no utopias waiting to be born. There is only what we do - what you choose to do...'
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An essential text for our dire times. Orbinski plunges into the heartbreak, the maelstrom, the moral dilemmas of the genocide territories of the world - Rwanda, Kosovo, Sudan - and finds there enough courage and redemption for us all to feel there is hope for our sad humanity. - Ariel Dorfman
In this complex era of massive abuses to human rights by governments in too many countries, it is surprising to read such a poignant book that describes, without fanfare, the constant ethical, moral and even legal dilemmas that those in the field must confront hundreds of times a day. Clarity, compassion and commitment are presented in spades in this book about those who are fighting the lack of political will that too often fails to prevent man's inhumanity to man. - L Gen Romeo Dallaire, author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
James Orbinski has lived for years in the middle of the worst that humans can be, and somehow emerged with both his compassion and his desire to understand us intact...the stories he has to tell are some of the most powerful I have ever read - Stephanie Nolen, author of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa
In a narrative of grace and power, [Orbinski] displays the intense components of his remarkable life: integrity, compassion and principle - Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and author of Race Against Time
This is not a book for the fainthearted...a searing account of the realities of war and the struggle to bring some humanitarian values and practical help to violent places. And it is written with huge passion....A tale for our times - Mail on Sunday
He tells his extraordinary story in unpretentious, carefully weighed prose - Observer
a fascinating discussion - Daily Mail
Orbinski captures exactly the horror of the surgeon overwhelmed by casualties...It is his sheer, human, stick-at-your-post courage that is most estimable - Financial Times Weekend
Dr. James Orbinski was the recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, on behalf of MSF. He is a Research Scientist and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Political Science at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto. He is also a founder of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical research and development entity focused on the diseases of the South. He recently founded Dignitas, based in Malawi, an organization focused on community based treatment, care and prevention of HIV in the developing world. He lives in Canada but travels widely.