While that is undoubtedly true, there is an old saying about good intentions and the road they pave. With that in mind, newsrooms should, as Schwitzer wisely recommended, have conversations about journalism ethics “before events take place - not during or after.” Journalist-doctors going into situations like the one Haiti should, in other words, have a pre-existing sense of when to intervene in medical emergencies and when not to, as well as when to cover those events and when not to.

[Update — 1/25, 1:30 p.m.: The Society of Professional Journalists, one of the U.S.’s largest and oldest journalism organizations, issued the following statement on Jan. 22 regarding journalists’ work as physicians in Haiti:

“The Society of Professional Journalists applauds the efforts of all journalists in Haiti who are working tirelessly to report the aftermath of last week’s devastating earthquake and the ensuing aftershocks. However, SPJ cautions journalists to avoid making themselves part of the stories they are reporting. Even in crises, journalists have a responsibility to their audiences to gather news objectively and to report facts.”]

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.