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Building an Open Burma Through Medical Ethics

Myaing Myaing Nyunt

Can signing a consent form contribute to democratic transition?

Myaing Myaing Nyunt believes so. In 1988, Nyunt left her home country of Burma as the military government violently suppressed a pro-democracy uprising. While working in a mobile clinic on the country’s border with Thailand, she saw how health care is an opportunity to teach people that they have rights—rights to privacy, autonomy, and information.

Today, as Burma slowly begins to open, Nyunt, now a professor at the University of Maryland, has returned to Burma to teach health professionals and students what she’s learned about medical ethics. Small changes, she believes, grow into meaningful reform—an act as simple as having a patient sign a consent form can help that person internalize a sense of his or her fundamental freedoms.

“That little person is not a singular instance,” Nyunt explains. “She has her friends, her community, and that’s going to spread … Small changes must take place to get to one large goal.”

Myaing Myaing Nyunt is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

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