I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.
Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading
Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Finance, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society
As the pro-abortion lobby has rushed to defuse the ticking time bomb of comprehension that might make lazy and inattentive American think. “Wait, that’s what happens in an abortion?,” its dishonest, desperate, and unethical arguments have been as revealing as the videos themselves, and as damning.
Frankly, I’ve been surprised: they really don’t have much that makes ethical sense, just “it’s legal!” and “It’s Our Bodies And We’ll Kill If We Want To!” (a little known B-side flop by the recently departed Leslie Gore.) I recently wrote about their defenses in the posts Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One) and Part Two: Bad Analogies. As I wrote in the latter: “If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.”
More evidence that they don’t possess them and also don’t care to have an honest debate recently came to light.
The most bizarre was an article in the Washington Post ostensibly about the ongoing drama at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The female panda there gave birth to twins (“Awwwww!”) then abandoned and neglected the smaller one (“OH NO!!!”) which soon died. Before the little panda’s demise, those clever abortion advocates of the Post saw an opportunity, and had a female reporter, Sarah Kaplan, author an article which the Post titled “The perfectly sensible reason why panda mothers and other creatures selectively abandon babies.”
If you want to think it’s a coincidence, go ahead. I don’t. To Kaplan’s credit, she avoided any overt analogies to human beings, and played it straight, as she always does. (She’s a terrific reporter.) Still, there is that headline. It’s sensible to “abandon” babies that will be too difficult for the mother to care for, “abandon” in the wild being the equivalent of “kill.” This points to Rationalization #51—the latest on the Ethics Alarms list-–as a defense for abortion: “It’s natural.” Continue reading
My favorite advice columnist, innate ethicist Carolyn Hax, courageously and wisely addressed an ethics problem that is the equivalent of squaring the circle or finding the end of pi. The question posed by a commenter:
My mother says she will not tell me who my father is and will take the secret to the grave with her. Is there ever any good reason for not telling someone who their father is?
This is not merely a difficult question but also a portal question leading us to a myriad of specific ethics dilemmas. Hax offers a few, some of which aren’t very good:
- If she doesn’t know for sure herself.
Well, of course: also if she can’t communicate due to her mouth being sewn shut, her arms amputated, she never learned Morse Code and it lousy at charades.]
- If he committed crimes so heinous that she fears they would change the way you see yourself.
- If he was and is still married to her sister, cousin, best friend.
Or if the mother is the father…?
- If revealing his name would reveal something embarrassing about her or her past choices or the circumstances of your birth.
Nope. Embarrassment about the truth is not a valid reason for withholding it from someone who has a legitimate and justified reason to know it.
- If she promised him she would take the secret of his identity to her grave.
Too bad: that’s never a good reason. A commitment to the dead does not, can not and must not have priority over obligations to the living. That’s an unethical promise; the daughter cannot be ethically made to suffer for it.
If he’s a sperm donor and she thinks there’s something wrong with admitting that.
- The mother thinking it’s a good reason isn’t the same as it being a good reason. Come on, Carolyn.
My favorite is if the father is Satan, and the mother wants her daughter to have as normal and happy a life as possible until the inevitable day when Dad calls on her to assume her destiny as the DARK EMPRESS OF THE DAMNED! Continue reading
I don’t know if a 24 hour period has ever produced as many provocative, passionate and well-argued comments on Ethics Alarms before. This, commenter Holly’s reaction to my designation of the viral Baltimore mom Toya Graham clobbering her rioter son during the Freddie Gray disruptions in Charm City, is just one of several. I’ll address some of the issues she raises after the post; in the meantime, here is Holly’s Comment of the Day, in a day that will probably have more than one, on the post, “Ethics Hero: The Baltimore Riot’s ‘Mom of the Year’”:
I am surprised at this response. For a number of reasons. In any other circumstance, this woman probably would be going to jail. But if we watch the video more closely, the following observations can be made:
1. This child was leaving with his mother and she was so angry that she chases him to pull him back towards her to continue the beating. He appeared to be complying and in her anger continued to the assault the kid during the walk away.
2. The child was not in imminent danger. There are bystanders all around I saw no rocks being thrown in this video nor police for that matter. It does not appear the threat of losing his life was immediately in front of them.
3. The assault starts with a few close-fisted strikes as well as continuing with open-fisted strikes or what people are calling “smacks”.
Exemplary action on the part of this mother would not have been beating her son as he walked away from the riot, however. It would have included not allowing a 16 year out of her supervision to wander in the riot in the first place. Continue reading
It is odd that the now-anointed “mom of the year” is a woman videotaped beating her son, and rather violently at that. That’s the Ethics Incompleteness Principle for you: even conduct that is “always” unethical may be made ethical by unusual circumstances. Seeing your grown son participating in looting and rioting that are destroying your neighborhood changes the rules, or perhaps makes them inapplicable.
Here is what the unidentified woman (UPDATE: Her name is Toya Graham) was doing that is an ethical duty: she was fixing the problem to the extent she could. Utilitarian? Yup. Would Kant approve? Well, if every mother of those rioters intervened, they would have had more success than the Baltimore police did.
As for the Golden Rule, her conduct passes that test as well. If I were getting pulled into violent, mindless mob violence like that kid, I would want my caring parents to stop me by any means short of shooting me. If it were my son wearing that hood, I’d be tackling him.
I don’t know if she’s really “Mom of the Year”—I’d like to think that a really exemplary mother won’t raise a rioter. She’s an Ethics Hero, though, beyond question.
[I am tired, having engaged in a knockdown, drag-out session on legal ethics with a lively group of Federal bar practitioners. This was not the issue I wanted to come home to for the last post of the day. In fact, I gave up and am posting it this morning. Funny, the issue isn’t any easier now than it was yesterday.]
Charles Taze Russell, founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and still getting kids killed since 1879.
A pregnant woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness checked into a Sydney, Australia hospital suffering from leukemia. She directed the staff that her treatment could not include blood transfusions, as her religious beliefs forbade them. She suffered from acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), which is treatable, and often successfully. According to The American Cancer Society, “more than 90% of patients with APL go into remission with standard induction treatment.” Pregnant women with the cancer have an 83 percent remission rate, and their babies have a high rate of survival when their mothers are diagnosed in their second or third trimesters.
In the end, the fetus and the mother died for want of proper treatment. “Staff were distressed, grappling with what was perceived as two ‘avoidable’ deaths,” doctors at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia wrote in a letter published this month in the Internal Medicine Journal.
Well, they should be distressed: they aided and abetted negligent homicide. Continue reading