If you ever want to explain the concept of signature significance in ethics—how one act can be sufficient evidence to make a fair and valid judgment about someone’s character—to a friend or colleague, this story should do the trick.
In California, a kind woman named Shawna Hamon heard about a 7-year-old girl with leukemia whose Christmas wish was for Santa to bring her a pug puppy. So Hamon bought a pug puppy, and gave it to a friend who promised to deliver the little dog to the girl in Sacramento in time for the holidays.
The puppy never arrived, however. The friend decided to keep it for herself. Hamon sent an animal delivery service and an attorney to the woman’s Los Angeles home, but the woman refused to give the dog back. Then Hamon filed a theft complaint and police got a search warrant to search the home, but found no pug puppy. After searching some other nearby homes, they eventually found the little dog at a neighbor’s house, where the pug-napper had hidden it.
Hamon now has the dog back, and learned her lesson. She will deliver it herself this time, a bit late, to the sick little girl. The child is currently receiving experimental treatment for leukemia in Philadelphia.
Now, what are the chances that the woman who took the dog, a desperately sick child’s Christmas gift, for herself, and foiled the compassionate act of a friend in the process, was just having a bad day, just made one mistake, really is a fine, upstanding, trustworthy individual and can’t be judged conclusively as an unethical cur (no offense, puppy…) based on this one incident, because a single episode has no statistical and predictive significance?
Facts and graphic: NBC