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An Imperfect Offering

An Imperfect Offering: Dispatches from the Medical Frontline

James Orbinski

In 1988 a young medical student called James Orbinski embarked on a research trip to Rwanda, confronting pain and suffering on a barely conceivable scale. Much of it, he could see, was preventable; much of it occasioned by political and economic corruption. The experience would change his life.

Subsequently, as a member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Orbinski tended to victims of war, famine and epidemic disease the world over, returning eventually to Rwanda just as the nation was beginning its descent into the hell of massacre and genocide. Staggered by the indescribable cruelty, he struggled to regain his footing—as a doctor, a humanitarian and a man.

In An Imperfect Offering James Orbinski asserts with unfailing clarity the dignity and humanity of those for whom political systems have most brutally failed. He takes us into some of the darkest hours of human history, and finds there nearly unimaginable acts of courage, and optimism. He shows too that voice, action and engaged citizenship are essential for a world that dares to hope.

James Orbinski
About the Author

James Orbinski was the President of Médecins Sans Frontières at the time the organisation received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the co-founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of Dignitas International, a medical humanitarian organization working to increase access to life-saving treatment in areas overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS.

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448 pp
Text publication date:
4 August 2008
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Praise for James Orbinski
andAn Imperfect Offering

‘With vivid personal anecdote, Orbinski chronicles the struggle around humanitarian intervention in one hotspot after another across the planet. In a narrative of grace and power, he displays the intense components of his remarkable life: integrity, compassion and principle. He is undaunted in the face of the worst the world has to offer. He is determined to salve the wounds of humankind. He is a truly committed man, mind and soul throbbing with incandescent decency.’

‘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. He is a marvelous storyteller, and the stories he has to tell are some of the most powerful I have ever read.’