3. Capacity to Consent

In addition to the question of whether to call the authorities, Purdon and Palleja had another choice to make: should they interview Mohamed? Was he in the right state of mind to consent to an interview? Shapiro says that Purdon and Palleja were facing a clear dilemma in this regard:

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Shapiro says that if a reporter follows the journalistic principle of “do no harm” then their first action would be to move the person to get medical attention. They could then interview him later, after he receives medical treatment but Shapiro argues that an interview that was not conducted at the border would likely be of less interest to the audience, nor would it help the audience to understand the situation that Mohammed was in. It also wouldn’t put this story in the context of the broader international public policy story.

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Purdon and Palleja could see Mohamed was physically debilitated, but that he had an idea of what was going on when they spoke to him. “He’s responsive, he’s answering, obviously English is not his first language, but he’s answering in English…he’s alert,” Palleja says. To them, Mohamed appeared to consent to an interview.

Next: 4. Guidelines for Filming Vulnerable Subjects