Category Archives: Bioethics

Terry Turnage, Serial Father and Utter Fick

"So? Not my problem."

“So? Not my problem.”

Terry Turnage  has fathered 26 children by 15-20 different women, the precise number being difficult to establish. And that’s not all:  he apparently has failed to pay child support to any of the women who bore his offspring, all while driving expensive cars,  throwing elaborate parties, and spending money on everything but his bastard progeny.

He is a co-owner, with one of his many sons, Terry Jr. (and maybe one of many Terry, Jr’s), of Club Envy, an Arkansas nightclub. Recently Terry Sr. threw a two-day party for his birthday. He threw another party for 700 guests.

Of course, that could just be his relatives.

What does society do with someone like this, so irresponsible and shameless? It you lock them up, they can’t support any of the kids. We can’t castrate him (cruel and unusual, that) and courts can’t order citizens not to procreate, or ensure that they they don’t. That’s Nazi stuff, though the U.S. did a bit of it until relatively recently. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Introducing Rationalization #46: Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t Point Fingers!”

fingers-pointing

J’accuse …!” ( “I accuse…!”) was a famous open letter to French president Félix Faure, published  January 13, 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by novelist Émile Zola. It accused the French Government anti-Semitism and a breach of justice in the prosecution and imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. His well-argued accusation was the epitome of effective finger-pointing, and played a major role in bringing down a corrupt government.

Nonetheless, pointing fingers where they need to be pointed, when they need to be pointed, is inconvenient for the incompetents, miscreants, con artists, spinners and otherwise accountable parties so accused. Thus they and their allies often exploit this peculiar rationalization, which is better described, perhaps, as rationalization fertilizer, since it is a catalyst for the employment of many others, including the Biblical rationalizations. “Don’t point fingers!”, or its common variation, “Stop pointing fingers!” provides protection for the very people who most deserve to be pointed to, allowing them to deny culpability, avoid the just consequences of their failings, and best of all, divert appropriate attention from what they have done or not done to the supposed meanness and vindictiveness of critics who want to make sure the same mistakes don’t occur again, especially with the same officials in charge.

And, ironically, the cry “Don’t point fingers!” is often followed by those who cry it pointing fingers themselves, at others. It has unlocked, in such circumstances, the use of Rationalization #7, The Tit-For-Tat Excuse, which holds that one party’s unethical conduct justifies similar unethical conduct in return. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership

Ethics Observations Regarding The “Little Thing” Letter

Mail call!

Mail call!

Let me begin by stating that I doubt that the now viral “Little Thing” letter is genuine. It may well be bait put on the web (it was first published on Reddit) to trap the worst unethical hypocrites of the pro-abortion movement. If so, it worked, for some pro-choice advocates have received it with deafening, nauseating, self-indicting applause. If, on the other hand, the letter is genuine, it is a chilling confirmation of the ethical gymnastics some abortion apologists put themselves through to rationalize what in their hearts they know to be wrong.

If abortion is ethically tolerable, it cannot involve the willful and unnecessary killing of a human life. Only then is “pro choice” a fair description of the legal and the ethical issues involved: the choice of a woman to end a her pregnancy without ending what she believes to be the life of an innocent child. There are many complex and logically dubious aspects to this. The magic moment, still moving, individually variable and often determined legislatively or judicially with the precision of a coin flip, when “undifferentiated cells” suddenly become a human life worthy of society’s respect and protection, is sometimes defined by the mother’s belief. If she believes she is with child, someone else killing that child may be charged with some form of murder. If she decides that it is no more human than a wart or a tumor, she is given leave by the law to kill it without regret or consequences. This means that it is in the interests of a woman who wishes an active sex life and wants to control the timing of motherhood to fit her life plan to tend toward the wart point of view.There is no integrity to defining a key factor in a life and death decision after we have already decided how we want that decision to come out. It is like the Bush administration, having decided that waterboarding is useful, creating legal arguments asserting that an act that had always been regarded as torture wasn’t torture after all. To  many women on the pro-abortion side, unwanted or inconvenient babies are as much enemies as terrorists were to Dick Cheney. Thus life is defined in such a way as to make their war winnable.

This self-delusion, legal fiction, essential myth or convenient belief—pick your favorite—has obviously been very successful, and many women appear to accept it without thinking very deeply about it. If the option of an abortion makes one’s life infinitely more manageable, why begin questioning the ethics of the procedure, especially since about half the public, most of the media, prestigious organizations, the law, a political party and political correctness tenets tell you not to, that the issues are settled? Nonetheless, some women do question it, and do reach the conclusion that it is not a wart or tumor or enemy within them, but rather an innocent, growing, human life.

If and when a woman reaches that conclusion, as inconvenient as it may, then to go ahead with an abortion is unethical, and is, in fact, the ethical equivalent of murder. It is not the legal equivalent of murder, but when a mother believes that she is, through abortion, taking the life of an unborn child that she regards as an individual, I don’t see how it can be termed anything else.

And that is clearly the state of mind of the anonymous author of this letter, if it is genuine: Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Love, Rights, U.S. Society

“CSI” Ethics: Now THAT Was An Unethical Fictional Lawyer…

CSIWow. That was one unethical lawyer on CBS’s “CSI” last night, and I mean even before we found out that he had stolen a vile of an Ebola-like virus and used it to murder a doctor, almost setting off a viral epidemic in Las Vegas. (Gee, I wonder where the writers got the idea for that story? See, we don’t have to argue about politicians causing panic over Ebola: the entertainment media is way, way ahead of them.) Among the lawyer’s ethical transgressions:

1. He set out to use his law degree to gain access, through employment, to a company he blamed for allowing a deadly virus to wipe out his family in South America. Needless to say, this is a blatant conflict of interest, indeed, the worst one for a lawyer I have ever heard of in fact or fiction. He wanted to represent a corporate client so he could destroy it.  This is a clear breach of Model Rule 1.7:

(b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by… a personal interest of the lawyer.

Now, that conflict could be waived if the client were fully informed of the fact that its lawyer wanted to destroy it, and the client didn’t mind. That seems unlikely to me.

2. When it looked like his murder was going to set off a deadly epidemic, the lawyer decided to let CSI know that his client the biotech firm had lied about none of its supply of the virus being missing. He knew it was missing, because he had stolen it. The failure of a lawyer to remedy a client’s lie to police about a crime isn’t unethical in a criminal defense setting, but it is unethical if the lawyer would be aiding in another crime by doing so, which was the case here. Moreover, he is involved in the crime, unknown to his client. This would be a disqualifying conflict even if the one described above didn’t exist.

3, He also has an obligation under the ethics rules (Model Rule 1.4) to inform his client about matters relevant to the representation that the client needs to know, like “By the way, about that missing vial of deadly hemorrhagic virus you don’t want to tell the police about? I took it.”

4. THEN, he surreptitiously taped an employee and representative of the company who thought he was also representing her (if he wasn’t, he has an ethical obligation to make that clear—it’s called a “corporate Miranda warning.”) While it is legal in Nevada to secretly tape a conversation you are participating in, it is virtually never ethical for  a lawyer to do this with a client (That’s misrepresentation, violating Rule 8.4 in Nevada) , who is assured that her communications with her lawyer will be privileged, and held in strictest confidence under the attorney-client relationship.

5. Now, if the reason for the lawyer making the recording and handing it over to Ted Danson had been what CSI first assumed it was—that he was trying to save lives in imminent danger and deemed the revelation of a client confidence the only way to prevent it—he would have some support in the ethics rules, for there is an exception to the duty of confidentiality that can justify that.*  That wasn’t his motive, however, at least not all of it. He was also trying to make sure that the company—his client, which he was trying to destroy in revenge for his family’s deaths—was blamed for the virus that he had released. He had no justification for violating Rule 1.6, which says that a lawyer must keep client confidences.

6. Also, since he was representing both the employee he secretly taped and the company itself, he would have been obligated to report what she told him—evidence of a crime implicating the company–to his corporate client before reporting it to authorities, so the corporate client could report the lost vial itself, or at least have that option. If the attorney was going to exercise the “death or serious bodily injury” exception, he needed to tell the client that, too.

Yes, this was a very unethical lawyer.

Then there was that killing part…

* There was no reason to make the recording at all. This was a lame plot manipulation by “CSI.” Danson and his team used the biological residue on the recorder to prove that the same person who made the recording also stole the vial. But the lawyer could have just told the police about what his client admitted regarding the missing vial. No recording was necessary.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Three Breasted Ethics

Three_breasted_woman

UPDATE: Snopes, the urban legend and hoax website, now thinks that this is a scam. As I noted in the post, that would not be a surprise and in fact would be a relief. In such cases, I suggest that the post be read as a hypothetical, since the ethics issues raised by the three-breasted woman remain interesting, even if the story itself turns out to be fiction.

A 21-year-old woman being identified with the alias Jasmine Tridevil ( don’t over-think it) says she paid $20,000 to a plastic surgeon to  give her a realistic third breast. She wants to  become a TV reality show star. Jasmine has hired a camera crew to follow her around Tampa, Florida, documenting the challenges she faces as a three-breasted woman.

I know what you are thinking.

I HOPE this is a hoax.

“Jasmine” was rejected by more than 50 doctors who believed they would be violating professional ethical codes. Scot Glasberg, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, condemned the surgery as ‘worse than unethical’ and ‘harmful to society’. ‘This violates every ethical principle not just in surgery but in medicine as well. We look to enhance the norm. This is not the norm. Nothing speaks louder than the fact that the surgeon required the patient to sign a non-disclosure form.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Professions

Presenting Rationalization #45: The Abuser’s License, or “It’s Complicated”

complexity

I owe Carol Costello for this one, which she unveiled today while explaining why it was unfair to criticize Janay Palmer for marrying Ray Rice, the pro football star who punched her lights out in a hotel elevator when they were engaged.  “It’s complicated,” Carol said, as her entire argument, as if this settled the issue.  My rationalization alarm immediately began clanging. Then I thought about all the other times I have heard that explanation used to avoid accountability or blame for wrongful action. Thus Ethics Alarms will add to its useful and always growing Rationalizations List…

45. The Abuser’s License:  “It’s Complicated”

 Costello later noted that the decision to stay with a potentially deadly partner was related to the emotion of love, as if love deserves an ethics pass that other emotions do not qualify for.  In this context, “It’s complicated” is a matched set with #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

Love does not get a pass, or warrant one. Love is one of the most powerful of the non-ethical consideration magnets that stop ethics alarm clappers from moving when they should, and the sentimental, warm and fuzzy tradition of excusing harmful, irresponsible, clearly wrongful conduct because it might have been motivated by love is a rejection of ethics in favor of romance. Love is not the most benign of impediments to sound ethical reasoning, but rather one of the most insidious. Some of the worst crimes in human history have been rationalized by lovers. If the the coded meaning of “It’s complicated” is “it’s love, and we can never plumb the mysteries of the heart!”, the sentiment should be received with exactly the same contempt as “It’s greed,” It’s hate,” or “It’s revenge.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Love, Romance and Relationships, Sports

Ice Bucket Challenge Ethics

Ice Bucket Challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a silly, brilliant fund-raising device that has simultaneously increased public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, brought over 14 million more dollars of donated funds into the ALS Association than last year for research, and provided some priceless YouTube fare, ranging from celebrity drenchings to this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4qADFNsDxE

Entertainment! Celebrities! Medical research! Charity! Public Education! How could there be anything unethical about such a phenomenon? Well, ethics often throw cold water on all manner of activities human beings crave, so it should not be too great a surprise that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated quite a few ethics-based objections. Let’s examine the potential, alleged and actual ethical flaws of the current fad, and rate them on an Ethics Foul Scale from zero (No ethical concerns at all) to ten ( Very Unethical).

1. It’s dangerous.

Anything can be dangerous if you are not sufficiently careful, and the Ice Bucket Challenge had its consequentialist moment when four firefighters were injured, one very seriously, trying to help the marching band at Campbellsville University get dumped with ice water this week. Two firefighters were in the bucket of their truck’s ladder preparing to douse the students using a firehose when a surge of electricity jumped from nearby power lines and electrucuted them and two colleagues. This was just a freak accident, however. Unlike the so-called Facebook Fire Challenge, the ALS fundraisng stunt shouldn’t be perilous to anyone, as long as practitioners don’t get too grandiose or creative.

Ethics Foul Score:

0

2. It wastes water.

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Charity, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, Uncategorized