tv 60 Minutes CBS April 16, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> for those who know only the name, the history of newtown, connecticut begins on december 14, 2012, when a mentally ill man murdered 20 first-graders and six educators at sandy hook elementary school. ana grace was the daughter of nelba and jimmy greene. >> one of the most compelling sermons i've ever heard was given at my daughter's funeral. it talks about jesus being with us in every season of our lives, and that ana's death would signify the beginning of a long and hard winter season. >> is it springtime yet? >> i can't imagine a day that it will be spring. >> how do 50 attorneys handle 22,000 cases?
>> you do your best. but a lot of times you can't provide the kind of representation that the constitution, our code of ethics and professional standards would have you provide. >> derwyn bunton has been head of the new orleans public defender's office for the last eight years. the 52 lawyers on his staff are responsible for representing more than 20,000 people a year. how many of you believe that an innocent client went to jail because you didn't have enough time to spend on their case? you feel you've all had that experience? >> one by one, the patches are peeled away and the world comes back into focus. you're witnessing the moment when the people in this room realize they can see, for the first time in years. can you see my fingers? their eyes and their faces begin to light up with a quiet sort of joy and wonder at the gift of sight. doctors geoff tabin and sanduk ruit are eye surgeons, and now,
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>> pelley: there is no word in the english language for a parent who has lost a child. maybe it's an abyss that we can't bear to make real by giving it a name. bereaved parents feel that life itself lacks definition. what could be next for them? what could be worthwhile? a little over four years ago, we met mothers and fathers who sent their first-graders to school one bright morning, and have endured the twilight ever since. when we returned to newtown, connecticut, recently, we found families who will never move on, but are finding ways to move forward.
newtown looks as it did the day before that day. the name is long-outdated; it was founded before the revolution, its flag pole raised after the civil war, and its town hall erected in the great depression. but, for those who know only the name, the history of newtown, connecticut begins on december 14, 2012, when a mentally ill man murdered 20 first-graders and six educators at sandy hook elementary school. ana grace was the daughter of nelba and jimmy greene. have you found people who don't know you, after all these years, expecting you to get over what happened? >> nelba greene: you just took my breath away, because that happens a lot and it is so incredibly painful. it's like losing her all over again. >> jimmy greene: there have been those that have said things like, "you know, so you guys are good now?" or "i hope you've had some closure to your daughter's murder."
in the back of my heart, and i know in nelba's as well, it's like our family will never be intact again. our daughter, ana, was six years old. >> pelley: it was in that town hall, four months after the killing, that we first met the greenes and six other newtown families. >> jimmy greene: every day i cry because i miss her so much. >> nicole hockley: this is dylan. >> pelley: there was nicole hockley. >> hockley: i think the picture kind of sums him up perfectly. >> mark barden: we lost our sweet little daniel barden. >> pelley: mark and jackie barden. >> mark barden: daniel was a light of positive energy in our home. >> francine wheeler: ben was six years old. >> pelley: david and francine wheeler. >> francine wheeler: ben was smart and funny. >> david wheeler: and our house is very quiet. >> pelley: david wheeler filled that "quiet" with a shout to every parent. >> david wheeler: i would like them to look in the mirror.
and that's not a figure of speech, scott. i mean, literally, find a mirror in your house and look in it, and look in your eyes and say, "this will never happen to me." it's going to happen again. it is going to happen again. and every time, you know, it's somebody else's school, it's somebody else's town, it's somebody else's community. until one day, you wake up and it's not. >> pelley: that week, several of the families convinced the connecticut legislature to pass universal background checks and to limit the size of ammunition magazines. then, they marched on washington to support a more modest proposal: just closing the loopholes so that all purchases require a background check. >> nicole hockley: i stand before you now and ask you to stand with me. >> pelley: polls showed most americans stood with them, and so did the president.
>> neil heslin: jesse was brutally murdered. >> pelley: they needed 60 votes in the senate. >> joe biden: the yeas are 54 and the nays are 46. >> pelley: but not even they could win a gun fight on capitol hill. >> hockley: when it was clear that they had lost, it was like all the air went out of your body in one quick swoosh. because that gut-wrenching defeat, how could-- how could this have just happened? >> pelley: wasn't there a sense after that vote of, "okay, we tried. i'm going home."? >> hockley: no-- >> mark barden: not for me. >> hockley: never. why would we do that? that that's not honoring our children. there is a saying, you know, "fall nine times, get up ten." we'll just keep getting up. >> pelley: so nicole hockley and mark barden founded sandy hook promise, to train teachers and students how to prevent violence. it was a revelation for hockley after the f.b.i. told the families that the gunman had
been on a predictable path. >> hockley: and i remember asking the question, "well, if you know these things about shooters, if you know that these signs and signals are given off, how come we don't know?" and the director said, "we just don't have the resources to train everyone in the country. we train law enforcement. we train-- other people. but we can't do it out to the mass public." and for me, that was the moment that i said, "well, if you can't, we can." well, good morning everyone. >> pelley: hockley spends half the year on the road, visiting schools, telling teachers and students how to spot the signs of social isolation. >> hockley: it's these tiny actions that we can each take, that you all have the power to do, that are going to change someone else's life. >> pelley: one program, called "start with hello," trains students to connect with their peers who are ignored or bullied. >> mark barden: it means so much to us that you're here and you're doing this. >> pelley: another is "say something," which encourages kids to speak up.
>> hockley: listen to the program. >> pelley: students are taught to watch for sudden changes in their classmates, a fascination with suicide or death or guns; changes in dress; or threats on social media. in 2015, mark barden trained students in cincinnati, and shortly thereafter, a middle school student made a bomb threat. >> hockley: and it was overheard by another student who had been trained in our "say something" program. >> mark barden: this eighth- grade student said, "i wouldn't have thought twice about what i saw on social media until i had your training, and i said, 'this is exactly what they're talking about.'" it gives me goose bumps just to think about it. >> hockley: i know. >> pelley: sandy hook promise says it has trained more than a million students and teachers, but it has had more reach on the internet. this video, called "evan," shows two students making a connection, but harder to spot in the background is what's happening to a troubled young man. if this program had been in
place at sandy hook elementary school the day before, do you think it-- >> hockley: you read my mind. sandy hook was preventable. and had someone been able to see those signs and signals that our shooter gave off throughout his life, and connect those dots, and make an intervention, i wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today. >> pelley: a parent who has lost a child has one fear left: the end of remembering. and so many of the families have created projects that introduce their child to new people. ben wheeler now lives in the work of ben's lighthouse. his mother, francine, creates service projects for newtown kids. >> francine wheeler: what a wonderful way to honor him and continue to be his parents.
>> pelley: continue to be his parents? >> francine wheeler: yeah. i can't live the rest of my life not talking about him. i mean, imagine you having a six-year-old, and then you don't anymore. are you going to stop talking about them? the worst thing you can do to a grieving parent is not to mention the child. then you're not acknowledging his existence. and so when people do acknowledge it, i'm so appreciative. i say, "oh, thank you for--" and even if i'm crying, they're like, "i'm sorry i made you cry." i'm like, "no, you didn't make me cry. you brought him back." >> david wheeler: it's like having him back for a minute. >> francine wheeler: yeah. >> pelley: the wheelers wanted another child, a sibling for their oldest, and almost two years after ben was killed, matthew bennett wheeler was born. >> david wheeler: you try to make the world into the place you want it to be, and many times the only area you have any control over is the square footage of your own house.
and so, you do what you can. >> pelley: david wheeler is a songwriter and recently, at a vigil against gun violence, francine sang, "leave a light on." ♪ you know i'm going to leave >> francine wheeler: "you know i will leave a light on." because you always look for your home after this kind of craziness that happens to you. where is your home? and he leaves that light on so that i can have a home in my heart for him. >> pelley: at that vigil, we met hannah d'avino. her sister rachel was a therapist in ben wheeler's class. >> hannah d'avino: she died standing her ground between evil and innocence. >> pelley: growing up, her big sister had been the strong one in a troubled home, and so d'avino says she lives today in purgatory-- not quite the present.
>> d'avino: a lot of it is because i feel guilty for being alive and happy when my sister's dead. >> pelley: rachel was your stability. >> d'avino: yes, she was. she really was. >> pelley: you know, i wonder, when you hear of the next shooting, how does that affect you? >> d'avino: i go back to my day one. i go back to 12/14, not knowing where my sister was, looking for her. and you see people getting that reuniting hug, and that breaks my heart, because i wish i got that hug. and then you see the people that are really distraught, because they're in this club now. >> pelley: nicole, how would you describe the change in yourself? >> hockley: you couldn't be any more different from the confident, optimistic, happy-go- lucky type person i was beforehand.
>> pelley: you have poured yourself into this so completely. >> hockley: yes. >> pelley: have you given yourself time to grieve? >> hockley: no. no. i'm working on that right now. this is kind of my year, that i'm feeling is, it's time, you know, to start finding myself again. but also to accept that no matter what i do, i can't get dylan back. >> pelley: jimmy greene summons his daughter's memory through his music. his album about ana grace was nominated for two grammys. >> nelba greene: i do think this is how we reach kids.
>> pelley: nelba marquez greene is a therapist, and she has started the ana grace project to educate teachers about mental health. you mentioned your faith and i wonder how your faith may have changed in all of this? >> nelba greene: one of the most compelling sermons i've ever heard was given at my daughter's funeral. it was just a beautiful sermon. it talks about jesus being with us in every season of our lives, including the winter, and that ana's death would signify the beginning of a long and hard winter season. and that winter would be made better with faith and family and friends. and i still feel that way. i really do. >> pelley: is it springtime yet? >> nelba greene: i can't imagine a day that it will be spring. the moment i'm reunited with her, i want to hear two things, i want to hear, "well done, my
good and faithful servant." and i want to hear, "hi, mom." ( wind chimes ) >> pelley: sandy hook elementary school was demolished and rebuilt, much like the families themselves-- changed, yet in the same place. >> what do you say to a parent who has lost a child? scott pelley on what he learned in newtown at 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by prevnar 13. my friends think doing this at my age is scary. i say not if you protect yourself. what is scary? pneumococcal pneumonia. it's a serious disease. my doctor said the risk is greater now that i'm over 50! yeah...ya-ha... just one dose of the prevnar 13® vaccine can help protect you
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denied their constitutional right to a lawyer. it's happening because the city's public defenders, attorneys who are supposed to represent those who can't afford private lawyers, have been staging a kind of protest. they say they are so overworked and underfunded, they don't have the time or resources to defend their clients properly, so they have been refusing to represent people charged with some of the most serious crimes: rapes, robberies, and murder. the man who made this startling decision is the chief public defender derwyn bunton. he says he didn't have a choice because the criminal justice system in america is so broken, it's become just a criminal processing system. what does that mean, a processing system? >> derwyn bunton: think about "i love lucy." they have that, that famous scene where she and ethel are trying to wrap chocolates, and their job is grab the chocolates, and wrap them, then get 'em back on the conveyor belt. our criminal justice system has become something of a conveyor belt, that starts with you
arrested, and then there's hands that touch you on the way to prison. it is not about figuring out, at any point, your innocence. should you even be on this conveyor belt, no matter what you did? >> cooper: that's a pretty frightening picture you paint. i mean, that's not a justice system. that's a system sending people to prison. >> bunton: and that's what we're fighting to change. >> cooper: derwyn bunton has been head of the new orleans public defender's office for the last eight years. the 52 lawyers on his staff are responsible for representing more than 20,000 people a year who are unable to afford a private attorney. how do 50 attorneys handle 22,000 cases? >> bunton: you do your best. but a lot of times you can't provide the kind of representation that the constitution, our code of ethics and professional standards would have you provide. >> cooper: it was a year ago in january that bunton announced his public defenders would no longer take on any felony cases in which defendants were facing
a possible life in prison. that left hundreds waiting in jail without lawyers. isn't having a busy public defender better than languishing in jail without any kind of attorney? >> bunton: no. no, a lawyer, poorly resourced, can cause irreparable harm to a client. >> cooper: we sat down with nine current and former new orleans public defenders who all admit they simply do not have the time or the budget to adequately represent all their clients. how many of you believe that an innocent client went to jail because you didn't have enough time to spend on their case? all of you. you feel you've all had that experience? >> brandi: we simply don't have the time. we don't have the money. we don't have the attention to be able to give to every single person. >> cooper: it's not for lack of skill. sarah chervinsky went to yale and won an award for best young trial lawyer in the country. >> sarah chervinsky: a lot of us went to law schools with good criminal defense, you know, clinics.
we come into this job being told, like, "here's what you do to investigate. here's how often you visit your client." and as soon as you start working, you realize the gap between what you should be doing and what you can do. >> stephen hanlon: it's unethical. it's unconstitutional. the judges know it, the prosecutors know it, the bar association knows it and it has to come to an end. >> cooper: stephen hanlon is general counsel for the national association for public defense. he's just concluded a study in conjunction with the american bar association finding louisiana public defenders are handling nearly five times as much work as they should. each public defender is doing the work of what five public defenders-- >> hanlon: that's exactly... >> cooper: --should be doing? >> hanlon: right. >> cooper: would any other profession be asked to work this kind of a load? >> hanlon: if obstetricians had five times as much work as they could handle competently, if airline pilots had five times as much work as they could handle competently, terrible things would happen. >> cooper: it wouldn't be
allowed-- i mean, there are strict regulations. >> hanlon: of course it wouldn't be allowed. >> cooper: public defenders have people's lives in their hands, just like airline pilots or doctors? >> hanlon: they have people's lives in their hands, they have people's liberty in their hands. they have their whole future in their hands. >> cooper: donald gamble knows what it's like to have your future rest in the hands of a new orleans public defender. in february 2015, he was out celebrating mardi gras in this neighborhood, when the police pulled up. >> donald gamble: the detective he just jumped out and he was like, "donald gamble, you're under arrest, and--" >> cooper: did they tell you what you were under arrest for? >> gamble: yeah, he said, "you're under arrest for two counts of armed robbery." >> cooper: a man with a gun stole two womens' purses. the robber was recorded fleeing by security cameras and a witness identified 26-year-old donald gamble. his bail was set at $300,000. unable to afford a private attorney, gamble was assigned a public defender. did you have confidence in your public defender? did you ever feel like, "okay, she's really investigating. they're really on it?"
>> gamble: i never once really felt that she was making progress. i could tell, every time i would interact with her, she just seemed busy, rushed. she seemed overworked. >> cooper: gamble had some prior non-violent offenses on his record, but now found himself facing possible life in prison. even so, court records show that for more than ten months, his case went nowhere. gamble was locked up in a jail that was recently cited by the department of justice for its violence and inhumane conditions. did you have problems in jail? >> gamble: yes. >> cooper: what happened? >> gamble: as you can see, i've got my front teeth knocked out. and i've had stitches. >> cooper: so, you got attacked more than once? >> gamble: absolutely, yeah. >> cooper: to protect himself, he says, he got a homemade knife, which was confiscated by authorities. lindsay samuel was gamble's public defender. she told us she couldn't spend much time on his case because she was already struggling to represent nearly 100 men facing life in prison. nearly a year after donald gamble was arrested, samuel quit
her job. why'd you leave? >> lindsay samuel: you know, feeling like you're always coming up short. you know, the first 1,000 clients, you feel terrible. the second 1,000 clients, you feel awful. the third 1,000-- 3,000 in, it doesn't feel so bad anymore. one morning i woke up and i just felt like, "i'm not even angry about this anymore." it's just everyday to me. every day, my clients are going away for a decade, and i just move along to the next client. >> cooper: samuel left just as the public defender's office started refusing cases. that meant donald gamble, stuck in jail, had no one representing him. but surprisingly, that turned out to be a good thing. a judge appointed pamela metzger, a constitutional scholar and tulane law professor, to advise him and six other men on their 6th amendment right to legal counsel. metzger argued that if the state couldn't provide the men with effective representation, they should all be released immediately. some of these men were charged
with very serious crimes. >> pamela metzger: rape, murder, armed robbery. >> cooper: you live in new orleans. you have a family here. >> metzer: yep. >> cooper: do you want them back on the street? >> metzger: i want to live in a city where the constitution matters, and i want to live in a city where everybody knows that if you get arrested, you're going to have a lawyer. and you're going to have a lawyer who represents you properly. >> cooper: pamela metzger's job wasn't to disprove the charges against donald gamble, but as soon as she started looking at the case file, she says she realized the eyewitness who identified gamble was unreliable. then she took the time to examine those security camera recordings of the robber. when she studied them closely, she realized, gamble didn't fit the description at all. >> metzger: i noticed the pants, and there's a flat, wide cuff to the pant. >> cooper: uh-huh? >> metzger: the pant cuffs are swinging as this person runs. >> cooper: these are the pants police said donald gamble was wearing during the robbery. these are tight on the bottom? >> metzger: these are old-school sweatpants, that are elasticized bottoms. see right there? >> cooper: uh-huh. >> metzger: that straight line? >> cooper: right. >> metzger: it's impossible for those pants to have made that. >> cooper: as soon as you saw
that, you knew? >> metzger: as soon as i saw that, i knew. >> cooper: how many hours did it take you to determine they had the wrong guy? >> metzger: i would say, put together, four or five hours of work. >> cooper: if a public defender has too many cases, has too big a workload... >> metzger: they don't have four to five hours. they don't. they don't have four to five hours. >> cooper: days after reviewing the case, pamela metzger presented the evidence, including the security camera videos to the judge. >> metzger: i got a call at home that night from the district attorney, saying "we're dropping it," and the paperwork was filed the next day. >> cooper: last june, after 16 months in jail, donald gamble was freed. he left for houston immediately to live with his grandmother. >> gamble: good to see you. you look so good. >> grandma: you do too, baby. >> gamble: you look so good. you looking young, girl. >> cooper: back at home there was relief and disbelief. >> gamble: you see i got my teeth got knocked out? >> grandma: that's pathetic. >> gamble: it'll be all right. >> grandma: it's time for you to have some good luck.
>> cooper: to someone watching who says, "look, it's unfortunate that some innocent people end up in jail, but no system is perfect, and it's the cost of doing business to keep people safe?" >> metzger: we didn't keep people safe. we put donald gamble in jail. the wrong man. and let the actual robber out on the streets for 16 more months. who knows how many other people he robbed? the cost of not having a good public defender is not just to the defendant. it's to the victims and it's to all the future victims. >> cooper: gamble, who was arrested again last month for disturbing the peace, had always insisted he was innocent of the robbery, but told us he was so scared in jail, he considered pleading guilty. you were facing potentially life in prison? >> gamble: yes. >> cooper: if your attorney had been able to get a plea bargain, for say, five years, would you have taken it? >> gamble: absolutely. if you ask yourself that same question, would you rather five years or 99 years? >> cooper: you would have pled guilty to something you didn't do? >> gamble: most definitely.
>> cooper: that doesn't surprise derwyn bunton, the city's chief public defender. he says their clients know they don't have the time and money to mount a rigorous defense at trial, so often decide to take plea deals, even if they aren't guilty. >> bunton: people are pleading guilty to crimes they didn't do. >> cooper: all the time? >> bunton: all the time. >> cooper: this is not just an isolated thing here and there? >> bunton: this is not isolated. this is a system that has grown so large, without any counterbalance, that it has produced the highest incarceration rate in the world. >> cooper: and you're supposed to be that counterbalance? >> bunton: that's exactly right. >> cooper: to illustrate his point, bunton took us to this warehouse where the public defenders' cases from the past decade are stored. about how many cases are there here? >> bunton: it's roughly about half a million. >> cooper: and how many pled guilty? >> bunton: you're probably looking at somewhere between 90%, 95%. >> cooper: 95% of these people were guilty? >> bunton: well, they pled guilty. >> cooper: i think people who haven't been in the system find the notion that somebody would
plead guilty to something in a plea deal, that they didn't actually do, hard to imagine. >> bunton: say you're, you're picked up for something you didn't do and you're placed in jail. jail is a terrible place to be. and you find out, through your public defender, that if you plea to this, maybe it's this lesser thing, maybe it's guilty as charged, you'll get out today. people will take that plea because they want to get out of jail. >> cooper: but plea deals, bunton says, often lead to serious consequences, when someone has a criminal record. >> bunton: louisiana is a state that has a lot of "misdemeanor multiples," as we call them. that means if you get one misdemeanor, is the misdemeanor. a second one turns it into a felony. >> cooper: so if you're arrested on a misdemeanor and then a couple months later it happens again, that becomes a felony? >> bunton: that's right. the second time it's a felony. and the penalties increase for each subsequent time that you're caught. >> cooper: these public defenders say they see harsh
sentences based on prior felonies and misdemeanors all the time. >> barksdale: i had a client who's doing 20 years for stealing a flat of soda that was worth less than a $100. >> kenneth: i have a client that was sentenced to 17 years for half an ounce of weed. no crimes of violence in his past. >> cooper: in recent months, the public defender's office here has gotten some relief. the state of louisiana and the city of new orleans have come up with more money, and derwyn bunton has hired nine additional attorneys. but he insists he'll continue to turn away cases until he can ensure every client gets the defense they deserve. >> bunton: here, we have a criminal justice system, stories of innocence throughout and profound. and we still haven't had the urgency that i think we need to reform it, so that we don't destroy lives. because, make no mistake, we're destroying lives. >> cooper: and you don't want to be part of it anymore? >> bunton: we're not going to be
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>> whitaker: blindness and partial blindness are not epidemic here in the u.s., but they are in certain parts of the world. our story is about two doctors who decided to do something about it. and incredibly, to date, they've restored sight to more than 150,000 people. doctors they have trained have restored sight to four million more. their partnership seems improbable. one is a hard-charging, ivy league, american, adrenaline- junkie; the other a serene, buddhist surgeon from the remote mountains of nepal.
we joined them on one of their most challenging missions, in the isolated country of burma. their goal: to lead burma out of darkness one patient at a time. one by one, the patches are peeled away and the world comes back into focus. you're witnessing the moment when the people in this room realize they can see, for the first time in years. can you see my fingers? their eyes and their faces begin to light up with a quiet sort of joy and wonder at the gift of sight. as they look around, they see who changed their world, with an operation the day before that took just minutes. doctors geoff tabin and sanduk ruit are eye surgeons, and now, they are life savers. to hear doctors ruit and tabin speak, they are the beneficiaries. what's it like when that bandage is taken off and that person
sees for the first time, sees you? >> dr. sanduk ruit: i may have seen it thousands of times, but every time, there's a new tickle there, and i feel like my battery's been recharged. >> dr. geoff tabin: i still get such a thrill when people don't expect or realize they're going to have their sight restored. and then a transformation when they see, and the sort of moment of hesitation, "what are they seeing," and then the smile. >> whitaker: u myint oo hadn't seen for two years, until this moment. others here had been blind for decades. they all had cataracts, a milky white build up of protein that clouds the lens of the eye. in the u.s., they mainly afflict the elderly; removing them, a routine operation. but here in burma, also known as myanmar, cataracts go untreated and blindness is a way of life.
>> dr. tabin: it's a buddhist population. they're very fatalistic. they're very accepting, and there's almost an acceptance that you get old, your hair turns white, your eye turns white and then you die. and the idea that you can actually have your sight restored has not really permeated all levels of myanmar society. >> whitaker: what does that tell you about the state of eye care here? >> dr. tabin: well, it's a place we can make a difference. >> whitaker: burma is one of the poorest countries in asia, slowly emerging from the darkness of decades of dictatorship. after years of trying, tabin and ruit finally were permitted to bring their treatment here. we met them in taunggyi, in central burma, where the lack of care has led to some of the highest rates of cataracts in the world. through radio and pamphlets and conversation, word of the doctors visit spread. hundreds of burmese who'd lost their sight found their way to taunggyi's hospital, with the
help of care givers-- many trekking for days. here, cataracts are not just a malady of old age; they take the sight of the very young, too, caused by infections and malnutrition. >> i think it's better to redo it. >> whitaker: by the time the doctors scrubbed in, the corridors were choked with people hoping to have their sight restored. is it ever daunting? i mean, you look out there and you see that line of people, all who need this surgery. >> dr. tabin: it's daunting on a worldwide basis. it may be a long line, but this individual person, i'm going to give the very best care i can. >> whitaker: dr. ruit set a rapid pace. he repaired an eye; the patient got up; the next patient was ready on an adjoining table. just minutes an eye, then onto the next. dr. tabin performed the delicate surgery just feet away. >> dr. tabin: want to take a look? see how nice and clear that is. i don't know what that was,
maybe four or five minutes. and it's going from total blindness to great vision. >> whitaker: they kept up this pace until 7:00 in the evening. it's almost like an assembly line-- but assembly line sounds too mechanical. i mean, this is people's eyes. >> dr. tabin: it's people's lives. you know, once someone goes blind in a developing world, their life expectancy is about one-third that of age and health matched peers. and for a blind child, the life expectancy is five years. and also in the developing world, it takes, often, a person out of the work force, or a child out of school, to care for the blind person. so when we restore sight to a blind person, we're freeing up their family and restoring their life. >> whitaker: among the throng waiting to have their lives restored, we found kancchi. her son, a farmer, had been her eyes and devoted caretaker since cataracts took her sight.
15-year-old yawnu had been blind since age seven. he was overwhelmed, but grateful. "thank you," he said. drs. ruit and tabin heard that a lot. in four days in taunggyi, with the help of local doctors they were training, they performed 503 cataract surgeries. her eyes now bandaged, kancchi waited with her son. you are going to be performing as many cataract surgeries as the hospital does normally in a year. >> dr. ruit: we are basically here to ignite fire. ignite fire of the possibility of doing high-quality, high- volume cataract surgery. it is still possible. >> whitaker: you want to ignite a fire here. >> dr. ruit: ignite a fire here. >> whitaker: as long as he can remember, sanduk ruit has been burning to change the world around him. he grew up desperately poor, in
this village with no electricity or running water, high in the himalayas of nepal. the nearest school was a 15-day walk away. ruit's illiterate parents saw education as the way out for their children, but the grip of poverty and poor health was too strong to escape. his younger sister, with whom he was very close, died of tuberculosis. >> dr. ruit: i saw her pass away in front of me. and-- then it was a very strong determination from inside-- that maybe this is the profession that i should take and make healthcare available for my countrymen. >> whitaker: that determination took him to medical school in india. he came back to nepal an eye doctor, committed to bringing modern care to remote mountain villages. the documentary "out of the darkness" showed them carrying equipment on their backs. his team hiked for days.
his goal, as revolutionary as it was simple: to cure blindness in the third world with a quick, cheap technique to remove cataracts. soon the medical world took notice-- and so did a young geoff tabin. >> dr. tabin: i imposed myself on sanduk and came to work in nepal. >> whitaker: what did you think of him when he first showed up? >> dr. ruit: you know, i was a bit scared in the beginning, you know. he had tremendous energy. he would never get tired. energy in working, energy in eating, energy in drinking. energy in talking, you know? >> whitaker: it was like being hit by a human avalanche. fitting, since geoff tabin's passion was mountaineering, more than medicine. he'd raced through yale, oxford and harvard medical school, but he had made his name as one of the first people to climb the highest peak on every continent.
he met dr. ruit and thought he'd found his next challenge. ruit was skeptical this frenetic young man had the same dedication to ophthalmology he had to adventure. >> dr. ruit: i sent him to an-- to a hospital in eastern part of nepal, in the middle of summer. and i said, "he's not going to survive there." >> dr. tabin: during the summer, in the monsoon, it's quite oppressive. it's sort of 100°, 105, with a 99% humidity, and lots of mosquitoes. >> whitaker: wait a minute. you sent him to-- a difficult place on purpose-- >> dr. ruit: difficult place. difficult-- definitely, yeah. >> whitaker: did you know that he was testing you? >> dr. tabin: no. i thought he sent me there because there was so much need. i scratched my mosquito bites and-- was excited to go to work, that there were all of these blind people that, you know, i could make a difference in their life. >> whitaker: he won you over? >> dr. ruit: yes, yes, definitely.
>> whitaker: their relationship has grown from teacher/student to collaborators and friends. like yin and yang, these opposites complement each other. they created the himalayan cataract project, started here at tilganga, ruit's hospital in kathmandu. they perfected the procedure called small incision cataract surgery: just one small splice, the cataract comes out, a new man-made lens goes in, no stitches required. it's quick and costs about $20. how does the quality of care you're providing here compare to the quality of care you'd be able to provide in the u.s.? >> dr. tabin: for these advanced cataracts, i'm performing the same quality of surgery that i would be doing in america. >> whitaker: dr. tabin spends most of his year at the university of utah, where cataract surgery costs a couple thousand dollars an eye. he might do four or five a day. here, he does that many in a
half hour, removing cataracts he'd never see in the u.s., because they'd never go untreated so long. their project is funded by donations and grants. they're able to keep costs down because they don't use expensive equipment, and they make their own lenses at their factory in nepal. the lenses are crucial to the process. they're a permanent implant. each costs about $4. in the u.s., because of strict safety requirements, they can cost 50 times more. comparable quality? >> dr. ruit: very comparable. i'd put that in my mother's eyes. >> whitaker: so far, they've operated in two dozen countries, including north korea, ethiopia and now burma. they've brought hundreds of doctors, including the burmese doctors working with them, to tilganga for training. and everywhere they go, they train other doctors to carry on their work once they've moved on.
>> dr. ruit: how many fingers? >> whitaker: we saw the immediate benefit the morning after surgery. >> dr. ruit: how many? >> whitaker: the patients gathered in a buddhist monastery. as the bandages came off, first wonder-- then smiles and celebration. remember u myint oo, blind for two years? his family sent us this picture. he can read again, his favorite pastime. 15-year-old yawnu, blind half his life, seemed somewhat bewildered by this new world of sight. for kancchi, the wait was over. her son was overcome when she
her son was overcome when she saw his face for the first time in years. then there was this woman. is this the first time she's been able to see in months? >> yes. >> whitaker: she called drs. ruit and tabin "gods." they assured her they are not, but in this room it certainly seemed they had performed miracles. >> hallelujah! >> whitaker: the doctors recently got more good news. the himalayan cataract project is one of eight semifinalists for a $100 million grant from the macarthur foundation. >> this cbs spots update is brought the you by the lincoln motor company inch hilton head
island south carolina, tour rookie leslie brian shot a final round 67 to win the rbc heritage by one shot over luke donald. in the nba playoff, the washington wizards with a big performance by john wall defeat the atlanta hawks. out west the warriors took game one against the blazers. for more sports news and information go, to cbssports.com. jim nantz reporting. u. like, imagine having your vehicle serviced... from the comfort of your own home. introducing complimentary lincoln pickup and delivery servicing. because the most important luxury of all... is time. pickup and delivery servicing on the entire family of lincoln luxury vehicles including a complimentary lincoln loaner. knowing where you stand. it's never been easier. except when it comes to your retirement plan.
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>> pelley: last sunday, palm sunday, marked the beginning of holy week for most of the world's christians, including egypt's ancient coptic minority. isis marked the day by bombing two coptic churches, killing 45 worshippers. rather than the tragedy and violence of this past week, on this easter sunday, we want to recall the beauty and the richness of the coptic tradition, as reported by our late colleague bob simon in 2013. >> bob simon: the copts developed a religious culture that's distinctly egyptian-- everything from music to art to some of the most magnificent churches of the early christian era.
scholars have called the red monastery "the coptic sistine chapel." its walls are covered with paintings of the church's prophets, saints and martyrs. >> pelley: i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." tomorrow, be sure to watch "cbs this morning," and i'll see you on the "cbs evening news." captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org the only one to combine a safe sleep aid plus the 12 hour pain relieving strength of aleve. and now. i'm back! aleve pm for a better am. say carl, we have a question about your brokerage fees. fees? what did you have in mind? i don't know. $4.95 per trade? uhhh. and i was wondering if your brokerage offers some sort of guarantee? guarantee? where we can get our fees and commissions back if we're not happy.