Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

Good Morning

… to end a frantic ethics week…

(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)

1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:

A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.

The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.

None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.

Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.

2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.) Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Rights, Social Media

Ethics Hero: Ken White Of Popehat

I haven’t featured Ken White lately, in part because Popehat’s posts are sporadic, unlike those of mad bloggers who habitually post multiple essays a day. However, Ken’s most recent post is the epitome of  ethical blogging at its best. It is long, but absolutely worth the time to read. His subject is the internet pile-on against a mentally ill writer named Kenneth Eng, who, Ken points out, was obviously not well, and yet was mercilessly attacked and mocked. Fox News even exploited his illness for some sensational cable moments—shades of Sam Nunberg!  Ken, who has written frankly and courageously about his own battles with clinical depression, takes a hard ethics inventory, finds himself and the internet community lacking, and does a superb job—as usual—of clarifying a difficult issue.  I have had my differences with Ken, but at his best, White is as ethically astute and clear a writer as there is online, with an almost unfailing ability to point us in the right direction.

He writes in part, Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Race, U.S. Society

Sam Nunberg And The Sharks

Sam Nunberg is a twice fired Trump aide who has been caught up in the Special Prosecutor’s fishing expedition. Yesterday, he decided to make a desperate grab for fame, infamy, attention…who knows? Taking advantage of the now thoroughly AWOL ethics of what we once called “journalism, he arranged a phone interview with MSNBC’s Trump-hating Katy Tur in the afternoon. Then the sharks moved in.  That interview was picked up by both ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News. Then Nunberg went on a veritable swim-with-the-sharks orgy, with six interviews media interviews within four hours. He  appeared on set with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, then sat down with Erin Burnett on CNN. She had him on camera for more than a half-hour, during which he announced his intent to defy Mueller’s subpoena. Then he did a phone interview with NY1 in which he called Sarah Huckabee Sanders a “fat slob.”

Here was the most significant exchange among all of these:

Burnett: You’re sitting very close to me. We talked earlier about what people in the White House were saying to you, talking about whether you were drinking or on drugs. Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

Nunberg: I have not had a drink.

Burnett: You haven’t had a drink. Because it is the talk out there. I know it’s awkward. Let me give you the question: No, you haven’t had a drink?

Nunberg: My answer is no.

Burnett: Anything else?

Nunberg: No. Besides my meds. Anti-depressants. Is that okay?

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have asked a friend or loved one if he or she has been drinking because I smelled liquor on them.  The answer is always “no” or some variation of it. And they are always, always, lying. Any adult of normal experience knows this is true, including Burnett. But she’a a shark, not a journalist, not a professional, and certainly not an ethical human being. She smelled blood in the water, and its alcohol percentage didn’t bother her a bit. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/18: “Mrs. Miniver” Ethics, “Ick!,” And A Poll

Rugby in the morning

1 One of my favorite Hollywood ethics scenes. I watched “Mrs. Miniver” again last night, the 1942 WWII drama starring the magnificent Greer Garson. It has a wonderful ethics moment late in the film, when Lady Beldon, the wealthy town battleaxe (and the grandmother Mrs. Miniver’s recently minted daughter-in-law, soon to die tragically) presides over the English village’s annual flower show, in which she has won the coveted “Best Rose” prize every year. But beloved old stationmaster Mr. Ballard has developed a magnificent new rose (named after Garson’s character) and desperately wants to win as well. The Minivers tease their elderly relative about the near certainty that she will win as always regardless of the relative merits of her entry and “The Miniver” entered by Mr. Ballard, since the judges are terrified of her, and Lady Beldon has made it clear to all that she regards the annual prize as a virtual entitlement. After all, the prize is even called “The Beldon Challenge Cup.” Sure enough, the judges, who seemed to be having a harder time than usual concluding that Lady Beldon’s rose deserved the award, hand her a slip that places her rose in first place, and Mr. Ballard’s in second.

Lady Beldon shows the slip to Mrs. Miniver with an air of triumph.

MINIVER: This is really important to you, isn’t it?

LADY BELDON: Yes. It’s stupid of me, but there it is. I’ve won that cup for as long as I can remember.

MINIVER: Mr. Ballard’s terribly keen too.

BELDON: Well, he’s had his chance. Hasn’t he? You have such a way of looking at people. What do you expect me to do? Reverse the judges’ decision?

MINIVER: I wouldn’t put it past you. If you happened to disagree with it.

“But I don’t!” she harrumphs. She keeps looking at the two competing roses, though, and also at old Mr. Ballard (played by Henry Traverse, later to portray Clarence the Wingless Angel”in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” His look of anticipation and hope approximately mirrors the expression of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. And when it comes time to announce the winner, Lady Ballard pauses, looks at the two roses again, ponders,  crumples up the judges’ slip, and announces that “The Miniver” wins the prize.

Dame May Witty, one of the best character actors England ever produced, shows us with her face that she realizes she did the right thing as soon as she sees Ballard’s reaction to winning. And the assembled crowd gives her an even louder ovation than they give the winner. They didn’t even have to see the slip like the Minivers: they know what she did. And she knows they know.

I had a Lady Beldon moment many years ago, before I had even seen the movie. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/18: Guns, Tweets And Blackberry Slingshots

Good morning everybody!

1. Oh, well if David Hogg says so… I just listened to an earnest, articulate Florida high school student named David Hogg tell a CNN reporter, his head nodding sagely, complete counter-factual garbage, with no correction, for what seemed like an eternity. “David Hogg wants Congress to act.” the screen said said as the 17-year-old was speaking. This is lousy, unethical journalism—well, it’s CNN– and irresponsible. I don’t blame the kid for believing the crap he reads and hears from people who are lying to the public, but I expect the news media to correct, not circulate, dishonest talking points. Well, maybe “expect” isn’t the right word.

No, David, “thousands of students” do not die every year. No, David, that “18 school shootings” fake stat is designed to mislead: it includes every time a gun has been discharged in or near a school, not mass or multiple shootings or even fatalities. [See Item #2]

See, David, when people talk about “mental health reform” they are often talking about pre-crime, and removing the rights of citizens before they have done anything wrong, much less criminal. But CNN’s reporter kept nodding.

These are complex issues involving rights and practical realities, and a high school student is not an authority that CNN or anyone should be presenting as an advocate. Until the anti-gun advocates stop intentionally distorting facts and trying to mislead while relying on emotion to swamp legitimate debate, there will be no serious dialogue about whether any policies could stop tragedies like the latest Valentine’s Day massacre, and bumper sticker chants like “Do something!” and “If it saves just one life…” lead away from responsible policy, not toward it.

I cross-posted this to Facebook, and can’t wait to read the reactions. At this point, posting facts qualifies as trolling. The anti-gun hysterics can’t stand it. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Rights, Social Media, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need”

I am backed up on Comments of the Day again, especially embarrassing after I announced that I would be posting one a day if possible. Getting one of the comments in the queue last night required trying to use my netbook while watching the Westminster Dog Show with my old Jack Russell feeling insecure and cuddling in my lap. The Update will be late today.

The post about the Oregon hospital being bullied by the local ACLU into placing an illegal immigrant on its transplant list simultaneously raised medical ethics issues and illegal immigration ethics issues, so I am grateful that Zoltar Speaks! resuscitates the topic with his comment. I am particularly greateful for his raising the question, “Is the perception of an action what makes the action ethical, or is it the motives behind the action that makes the action ethical, or does it take both?”

My answer, which I think I have made clear over 80,000 posts, is that it is what an action does or can reasonably be expected to do, within the intention and goal of the actor, that makes conduct ethical or not. Unanticipated and unanticipatable results don’t count, and neither does pollution by non-ethical and unethical motives mixed in with the ethical motives, unless they warp the conduct and the decision to engage in it.

There are exceptions, of course.

Here is Zoltar Speaks’ Comment of the Day on the post, Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need:

On one hand there is the Hippocratic Oath that directly implies that medical need trumps things like legal status, so in that regard the policy change is a direct reflection of the core of the Hippocratic Oath and it can be said that they changed their policy to reflect the ethical core of the Hippocratic Oath and present that argument to the public and their actions on the surface can be regarded as ethical. (Yes it’s a run-on sentence)

On the other hand there is the fact that illegal immigrants are literally taking advantage of a near “border-less” country and existing systems in place across the United States that ignore their legal status will allow them to do whatever they want regardless of the fact that they are in the United States illegally and some existing systems in place that actually help them do anything they want because they’re illegal immigrants. The United States has been, and still is, enabling illegal immigrants and this policy change is another system changed that enables illegal immigration.

This leads me directly to a topic that we’ve talked about on Ethics Alarms in the past: is the perception of an action what makes the action ethical, or is it the motives behind the action that makes the action ethical, or does it take both? If I remember correctly, I think the general consensus was that it’s the perception of the action that makes it ethical.

The perception of this action is two fold; first ethically complying with the intent of the Hippocratic Oath and second it’s another policy change enabling illegal immigration. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Fake History On Stage, Or “Why I Detest Sondheim’s ‘Assassins'”

Here are some of the things audience members unfamiliar with American history and its dark corner containing Presidential assassins will learn as they watch the much-acclaimed Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical “Assassins,” a very fine production of which I saw over the weekend:

…Nobody knows why actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln. It may have been “bad reviews.”

...Lee Harvey Oswald worked in the Dallas book depository, and and was originally going to shoot himself, not President Kennedy.

…Giuseppe Zangara was attempting to assassinate President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he killed the Mayor of Chicago and wounded five bystanders in 1933, but didn’t really care which, because both of them “controlled the money.”

…Sarah Jane Moore was a quirky, whacky, Lucy Riccardo-like  housewife who just wanted to kill President Ford for no particular reason.

…Moore and Lynnette “Squeaky’ Fromme knew each other and jointly attacked Ford.

…President Garfield “succeeded Grant.”

…Presidential assassins are all cut from the same psychological cloth, desperate Americans living on the margins of a cold-hearted nation that ignores them, who decide to become important by killing a President of the United States.

None of the above is true, and that just scratches the surface of the elaborate, anti-America conceit that is “Assassins.”  It is conceived as a cynical carnival game underlying a time-warping portrait of some of the men and women, far from all, who have tried, successfully or not, to murder a President of the United States.

I have seen the show multiple times, and it has always been (mostly) well-produced, directed, and acted, although if you set out to drive someone like me crazy, having Booth shoot at Lincoln with a revolver and having Oswald fire just one shot at Kennedy are good ways to do it. The show is also infuriating in its deliberate defiance of history to execute what a couple of artists think is a cool concept and a strong political statement that amounts to an evening’s worth of disinformation. The idea about assassins being a callous society’s losers and outcasts just doesn’t work, and should have signaled that it doesn’t work from the start: Booth, the leader of the time-traveling murderers—they all show up in the book depository to persuade Oswald to kill JFK—disproves the thesis in the first 10 minutes. Booth was no outcast or loser. He was a celebrity. He was successful, famous, and relatively wealthy. He was healthy, relatively sane, and in good shape. Booth was a Confederate fanatic, and determined to do what he could to pull victory out of defeat for the South by killing Lincoln, but he was hardly in the same class as, for example, Charles Guiteau, a certifiable loon, or John Hinckley.  Leon Czolgosz , who shot McKinley, was no crazier than Booth. He was a political radical as well, an anarchist like Sacco and Vanzetti, and was convinced that the government had to be brought down in the interests of justice.

Oh, whatever. Details, details. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Popular Culture