Category Archives: Health and Medicine

The Doctor, The Emergency And The Flight Attendant: A Depressing Ethics Tale With No Ethical Resolution In Sight

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Tamika Cross, a young OB-GYN flying Delta from Detroit to Minneapolis,  heard flight attendants calling for medical assistance when a passenger  man two rows in front of her was found to be unconscious. Dr. Cross raised her hand, only to be told, according to Cross’s subsequent Facebook post on the incident, “Oh no, sweetie, put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.”

Cross says she tried to  explain that she was a physician, but was “cut off by condescending remarks,” from the attendant. A moment later, when there was a second call for medical assistance and Cross again indicated that she was ready to help, the same flight attendant said, according to Cross, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” She then quizzed Cross  about her credentials, area of practice, and where she worked. In the meantime, a white, middle-aged male passenger appeared, and Cross, she says, was dismissed.

On her now viral Facebook post, Dr. Cross concludes:

“She came and apologized to me several times and offering me Skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want Skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my Skymiles….”

What’s going on here?


1. This was an emergency situation.

2. Dr. Cross sincerely felt insulted and treated with disrespect.

3. She also feels that she was the victim of stereotyping,, bias and prejudice.

4. Her account can be presumed to be an honest recounting of how she experienced the episode.

5. The Roshomon principles apply. We do not know how the flight attendant perceived the situation as it developed, and will never know, since the incident is already tainted with accusations of racism.

6. This was an emergency situation.

7. There is no way to determine what the flight attendant was thinking.

8. Despite all of the above, observers, analysts and others will be inclined see the event as confirmation of their own already determined beliefs and assumptions.

9. This was a single incident, involving a set of factors interacting in unpredictable ways.

Next, some ethical observations…. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Professions, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace

Here Are Two Victims I Am Happy To Blame: The Late Christopher Dilly And Jessica Lally

overdose3Tell me more about how drug use is a victimless crime. I’m sure these assholes loved that argument

Lally 25, and Dilly, 26, were found dead of overdoses in the den of their McKeesport, Pennsylvania home this week,  with three young children elsewhere in the house. They had recently posted on Facebook about how much they loved their children.

Not more than getting high, of course.

The parents may have been dead for a day or more before their bodies were found, after their 7-year-0ld daughter had told a school bus driver that she didn’t want to go inside her home because she couldn’t wake up her parents before dressing herself and heading to school. The  bus company notified the school, and school officials called the police.

The girl,  her 9-month-old girl, a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy were examined at a hospital, and  social welfare officials assumed custody of the children. All in all, this is a good development for the children, whose parents were irresponsible, irredeemable, reckless fools. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Northern Michigan University

"...but just shut the hell up abut it, or we'll have to suspend you.  Love, The Administration"

“…but just shut the hell up about it, or we’ll have to suspend you.
Love, The Administration”

Episodes like this, coming out of the wreckage we call higher education, raise at least three troubling questions:

1. If universities are this ignorant of the principle of free speech, why is anyone surprised that our younger generations are so willing to sacrifice it for political ends?

2. How can institutions run by administrators this immune to basic ethical decision-making reasoning be trusted to competently educate their students?

3. How many equally outrageous policies do schools inflict on their students that we don’t hear about?

Northern Michigan University installed threatens students with discipline if they share suicidal thoughts with other students.

FIRE, as usual, is on the case, and has written to the school to explain to them why this is abusive and a flagrant First Amendment violation. One student who had received a warning about her discussing about her suicidal feelings with her friends on campus, and was told not to have such conversations. She asked for clarification from Associate Dean of Students Mary Brundage, writing,

Just to clarify, the email said that if I spoke to students about it that it would create a distraction—which could create disciplinary action against me. . . . I was also wondering if I respond to concerned people, is that enough to get me in trouble? I do not want to worry others by not responding and I do not want to have the possibility of getting expelled by reaching out to my friends during this emotionally trying time and I see the possibility of misunderstanding or getting more concerned.

Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Rights

Without Courage, Integrity And Professionalism In The Legal Profession, The Rule Of Law Hasn’t A Prayer: The House of Representatives v. Burwell Saga

" Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it..."

” Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it…”

As I explained  here and here in 2015, the process of judicially determining whether the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional or not was unethically sabotaged by  threats to and improper lobbying of the law firm that had agreed to defend it. The Justice Department and the President had refused to do their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and same-sex marriage activists pressured the biggest client of the firm that had accepted the case to pass the pressure along. It worked. The firm dropped the case, precipitating a resignation by the partner handling it and this ringing assertion of traditional legal ethics:

“…[D]efending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.”

This was, we are learning, not an anomaly. On the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Josh Blackmon relates how the same strategy of applying of unethical political pressure, and the unprofessional capitulation of major law firms to it, nearly made a legitimate challenge to illegal payments to insurers under Obamacare impossible. He explains in part: Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

The Discouraging Mylan Epipen Ethics Breakdown


My economics professor in college was the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a best-selling author, New Frontier favorite and celebrity, to the extent that an economist can be a celebrity. One of the foundations of his fame was his theory that big corporations were becoming the successors to nations. They were, he said, on the way to becoming more powerful than nations, and the working people of the world would begin being more loyal to them than nations or religions.There were a lot of economic and management consequences of this, but it was the ethical implications that most interested me.

Corporate cultures would increasingly steer individual beliefs and behaviors, and strong forces would push these industrial giants to be less driven by profits and more ethically reponsible, since employees would want to be a “citizens” of a corporate state in which they could take pride. Similarly, stockholders wanted to be able to be proud of their holdings, as well as make money with them. His book explaining this theory, “The New Industrial State,” was a sensation. Part of the motive behind the book, my professor being a big government advocate too, was to lay the foundation of the case that these new “states” had to be carefully guided and regulated lest one go rogue and abuse its power to disastrous effect. Still, the position of the book was optimistic: the new giant corporations were scary, but there were forces at work that would make them want to be good and do good while making all that money.

Well, so much for that college course. The unfolding ethics mess that is the Epipen fiasco shows us an ugly company with an unethical culture run by an unethical CEO and invested in by people who don’t give a damn that the company is despicable, as long as they make money. The regulatory system that could have been built on Galbraith’s fantasy has failed utterly.

To make a long, complicated and depressing story shorter, here is a summary with some links at the end. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising

The Latest Unethical Tactic: Attacking Journalists Who Don’t Actively Try To Promote Hillary Over Trump [UPDATE: Hillary’s Health]


Once the New York Times embraced the rationalization “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford” and announced that journalists had a duty to bias their reporting to block Donald Trump’s election, this result was foretold. It was really foretold in 2008, when the news media first abandoned even the pretense of fairness and objectivity to ensure the election of our first black President.

Matt Lauer, of all people, became the object of furious invective after he hosted a live prime-time forum with Trump and Hillary. He was accused of unfairness, gullibility and even sexism in his handling of the event. His main offenses: not “fact-checking” Trump, as when he said, not for the first time, that he opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning (he didn’t), and grilling Hillary about her e-mail machinations.

The only way the transcript supports the latter contention is if one is Bernie Sanders and believes Hillary’s “stupid e-mail” is irrelevant. Lauer didn’t spend an inappropriate time on this issue, given what a perfect example it is of Clinton’s Arrogance, deviousness, lack of transparency, and, apparently, incompetence and recklessness.  I’d say he was easy on Hillary: he didn’t mention her sleazy conflicts with Clinton Foundation donors at all, and she is much less adept at spinning that slam-dunk conflict of interest and ethical violation than with her e-mail, which she has been lying about for more than a year. Pro-Clinton news media, which is to say, news media, howled about Lauer not challenging Trump’s thoroughly disproven claim about opposing the Iraq War, but Clinton already had done this, saying, “Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it.” Maybe Lauer thought that was enough; it should have been: Trump’s lie on this score has been well-publicized, including here, on Ethics Alarms.

Meanwhile, he did not challenge Clinton on her obviously false claim that emails cannot be considered classified if they do not contain formal classification markings, and worst of all, he did not challenge her unconstitutional call to ban citizens who are placed on a no-fly list from exercising their Second Amendment rights. This is especially important, because this fact isn’t understood by most Americans, and a Presidential candidate advocating defiance of the Constitution is, or should be, a big deal. Never mind, though: Lauer wasn’t supposed to be tough on Hillary. He was only supposed to be hard on Trump, and because he wasn’t “hard enough,” a.k.a., “harder,” a.k.a. “biased like the rest of the mainstream coverage,” then it means that he was incompetent. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Social Media, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Not As Empathetic As You Should Be? Blame Tylenol!

Oh no! Uncle Phil overdoes on Tylenol again, and now he wants to vote for Donald Trump!

Oh no! Uncle Phil overdosed on Tylenol again, and now he wants to vote for Donald Trump!

From Salon, reposting from Alternet:

“Researchers from Ohio State University recruited 80 college students as test subjects. Half were told to drink a solution containing 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen, while the second half were given a placebo drink containing no drugs. After the medication took effect, the two groups were instructed to rate the pain levels of people in eight different fictional situations — all were emotionally or physically traumatic scenarios. One story involved a person forced to deal with a parent’s unexpected death, another a person with a severe stab wound. Researchers found that students who had taken acetaminophen rated the pain levels of the traumatized story characters lower than those who had ingested the placebo liquid.

In another experiment involving 114 students, half drank the acetaminophen solution and the other half were given the placebo. Both groups were then subjected to brief, loud blasts of white noise and asked to rate the pain levels of a fictionalized participant who had experienced the same. Those who had consumed the acetaminophen solution rated both their own pain and the pain of others who experienced the noise lower than those who drank the placebo solution did. In another study section, subjects were shown short videos depicting a person being socially rejected from a group and were asked to rate the level of emotional pain the rejection caused. Here again, the group that drank the acetaminophen-infused liquid rated the pain lower than those who had only ingested the placebo drink.”


A few reactions to this:

1. Many news reports on these weird studies summarize the findings as “Common pain-killers can make you less empathetic.” “These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen,” Dominik Mischkowski, the study’s co-author and a former Ph.D. candidate from Ohio State University, said in a news release.

Says Baldwin Way, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University: “Empathy is important. If you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen, this research suggests you might be less understanding of what you did to hurt your spouse’s feelings.”

I think I know what is going on here. This seems to be one of many ideologically-inspired studies, designed to make the case that those who are privileged and are in less daily distress are naturally less likely to be capable of empathy, and hence have less ethical reactions to the distress of others, including that caused by the conduct of the empathy-impaired. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship