Tag Archives: altruism

Ethics Hero: Lindsey Bittorf

I regard people who contribute kidneys to near strangers as residing in a special category of Ethics Hero, in the exemplary ethics category….maybe the exemplary exemplary ethics category.  Considering Don Bedwell, the first individual I learned about who  engaged in this extraordinary act of sacrifice, kindness, and compassion,  I began my 2005 post, “There are special and rare people whose ethical instincts are so pure and keen that they can make the rest of us feel inadequate.”  Bedwell, a traveling businessman, donated his kidney to a waitress who often served him at his favorite Cleveland restaurant when he was passing through the city on business. The second altruistic organ donor was East Haven, Connecticut  Mayor April Capone Almon, who gifted one of her kidneys  to a desperate constituent she barely knew.

Wisconsin police officer Lindsey Bittorf is the most recent example of this special breed of ethics hero.  She saw a Facebook post from a local mother pleading for someone to rescue might  her  8-year-old son, Jackson Arneson, who needed a kidney. The boy’s family and friends had been tested and none were a match. Bittorf didn’t know the child or the family, but got herself tested on a whim. Doctors told her she was an unusually good match,considering that she was not related to the boy.

Last week, Bittorf  rang the doorbell at Jackson’s home to surprise his family with the good news,  ABC News reported. Jackson could have one of her healthy kidneys.The police officer told Jackson’s mom, Kristi Goll, that it was an “early Mother’s Day gift.”  That’s a bit better than flowers, you’ll have to admit. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not ‘Discrimination’”, (2)

This, the fourth Comment of the Day generated by the post on pre-existing conditions and health care insurance, is a comment on the original COTD on that post, and not on the more recent Comment of the Day on the Comment of the Day on that Comment of the Day, thus sparing Ethics Alarms the most ridiculous headline in its history.

The topic now holds the blog record for most re-published comments, and it could easily be more, since the number of excellent responses from readers on all sides of the issue is well into double figures.

But now it’s texagg04‘s turn. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not ‘Discrimination’.”

… The beauty of being a Federalist, especially a Libertarian Federalist, is that with the nuance of the system, I’m quite content with communitarian solutions to problems — when they are applied at the *appropriate* level and the *higher* they go, the more they need to provide a value, which left to it’s own the devices the market cannot produce the value soon enough to avoid a catastrophic harm to the market. The lower they go the more they can fulfill the various market whims of the locals.

My wife and I run our *family* as a fairly communist regime, though a bit more free than say, Soviet Russia. We really enjoy our *city* Library system. But for the most part, we really love our State keeping out of our business. I think its great that in places like Chicago and other snow-clad northern wastelands, some communities have mandated that each individual be compelled to ensure his section of city sidewalk is clear of snow – I think its great that some communities don’t.

When a problem arises which threatens the balance of the market severely enough but the market itself cannot provide a solution quickly enough that it essentially cannot save itself, I would submit that is within the government’s purview. Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not ‘Discrimination’.”

There have been a lot of lively and articulate debates on Ethics Alarms since it began in late 2009, but I don’t know if any post has generated more thoughtful, informed and enlightening comments than this one. Many of them, and I mean ten or more, are Comment of the Day worthy. I would post them all, but it’s more efficient to just send you to the post. I’m very proud of Ethics Alarms readers on this one. It’s an honor to have followers so astute and diverse.

I chose Spartan‘s comment over the others in part because it was the most overtly about ethics, balancing and altruism. Plus the fact that she gets a lot of flack here, and yet perseveres with provocative comments that are well-reasoned and expressed. She is an excellent representative of all the commenters that add so much to this blog.

Here is Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the post, No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”

The biggest problem — single payer is a jobs killer. I’ll admit that. Tens of thousands of people will have to find new jobs. Of course, there’s a flip side to this issue. Is it moral to sustain an industry that only benefits the rich and those who have access to employer-sponsored health care?

If we are going to get anywhere in this political debate, we have to be honest. Single payor is not sunshine and rainbows for all. Many people will have to find new jobs. Not everybody will love the care that they are provided. Medical students might decide to become stockbrokers instead because they will not make as much money. (On the plus side, the risk for med mal will go down so maybe there will not be a mass exodus.)

Another truth: a single payer plan will hurt the upper middle class the most. People like me. Because under single payer, I undoubtedly will have to pay more in taxes (the only way it could work), but I most likely will get a lower standard of care down the road. So, I imagine many people like me will go out and buy private insurance to sit on top of government provided medical care. So now I am even out more money. (Similarly, I don’t like my government provided education, so I pay money out of pocket for my kids’ school.)

While acknowledging all of this, I would still vote for single payer. In my view, it’s not ethical to let people die so other people can have jobs. That’s my position. If it means we can never go on another vacation or eat out again, it is more important to me that everyone have access to basic health care.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Hero, Corporate Division: Merck

Sometimes, though their implacable foes would refuse to acknowledge it, big corporations do the right thing even without a metaphorical gun at their heads. This week’s Economist magazine relates an amazing example that the public needs to know about, especially since it challenges popular stereotypes about Big Pharma.

The Economist begins by horrifying us with a deadly aspect of life in third world countries that are hot and wet: “neglected tropical diseases,” or NTDs. These are neglected because the populations that suffer from them are poor and far away, but they affect more than a billion people. Among the scourges, all parasitic, are Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, guinea-worm disease, leishmaniasis, river blindness, trachoma and yaws. There are 18 pernicious maladies currently listed as NTSs.

In the 1970s, mega-pharmaceutical firm Merck developed the drug ivermectin after tests on animals with parasitic infections. William Campbell, one of the firm’s parasitologists,told company executives that the new drug might be effective against the parasite that caused onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which  afflicts populations in in parts of Africa, Latin America, and  Yemen.  He was given the green light to find out.

The first human trial of ivermectin as treatment for river blindness took place in Senegal in 1981, on patients who had the early stages of the disease—itching, rashes— but no damage to their eyes yet. The results were encouraging,  indicating that ivermectin was safe for humans and highly effective at stopping the disease before it blinded its victims.  Merck, however, now faced the problem that has impeded cures for all the neglected tropical diseases: those who needed ivermectin were too poor to buy it, and so were the nations where they lived. Big corporations are not charities; they have investors, stockholders and a bottom line. They are not accustomed or programmed to give away their products.

Yet Merck made a corporate decision that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren say is impossible. Starting in 1987, it made an open-ended commitment to distribute as much ivermectin as was needed to eradicate the river blindness worldwide. In the next ten years, it swallowed the cost of 100 million doses. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Public Service, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Workplace

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag…”

panhandlerThe ethics quiz based on a reader’s off-site query regarding the ethics of giving to panhandlers when they are unlikely to use the gift wisely prompted a rich and thought-provoking thread. There were many “Comment of the Day” worthy responses, but I chose this one to represent them, in part because it is the most altruistic in spirit.

Here is my old friend Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag…

Back in the days when street folks still asked for a quarter, I used to pass the same guy every day and always gave him $.50 ($2.50 a week). A co-worker seeing me give money to the guy mentioned that the same street person usually arrived to his “office” in a cab. I thought about it for a second and decided that my $2.50 a week – constantly available to me and replenished on a bi-weekly basis – was not enough to challenge what he did with it after it left my hands.

I am also one who will invite someone into McDonald’s with me and have them order what they like. I keep a few dollars in the car for the men and women who haunt the very large intersection near my house. My end-of-the-year charity dollars go to the local food banks.

I am no paragon (I will, however, agree to “exceptionally soft touch” or “sap”). It is simply my own personal practice to help when I can with a fair certainty that I will not – God willing – in this lifetime lack for a dollar (or someone to help me). Perhaps it’s just so much new age crapola, but I believe we get back what we put out. For this sap, it’s just that simple. I have enough trouble sussing out my own motives without trying to figure out strangers with a hard-luck story.

My $2.50 🙂

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life

Ethics Quiz: From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag…

burningmoneyimageReader and sometime commenter Elizabeth 2 e-mails…

Here’s a question for which I’d appreciate some input.

I am generally a sucker for street people who ask for money. I frequent the 7-11 for quick trips for needed household items, and over the past couple of months I’ve often seen a young woman outside, just sitting there.  She once asked me if I had any spare change:  I gave her $10.  A couple of weeks later, same question, same response.

Then a month or so after I had last given her money, I was in the same 7-11 and saw her buying lottery tickets.

Last week she saw me as I entered the 7-11, recognized me, and asked me again for “spare change.” I said “I don’t have any cash at all.  Sorry!”  I was not of a mind to help this young woman use my charity for the biggest scam of all time:  the Virginia Lottery.

My question is this:  if I am willing to part with money for a person who seems to need it, and to do so without the vetting that a charity usually gets from me, am I in any position at all to care or change my behavior because of the way the money is spent?  Admittedly I have no ability to realistically judge the true need of anyone who asks me for money, but if I have some evidence that makes me wary, should I act on it?

Or, since charity (monetary or otherwise) is an important pillar of character for me, should I simply give what I can when I can and make no judgement whatsoever?  After all, these people don’t have Form 990s for me to examine.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical to withhold charity from a needy individual because you regard her likely use of your gift as irresponsible?

Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Quotes

The Ethical Christmas Carol

Considering that Christmas is our culture’s ethical holiday, it is remarkable that only one traditional carol—and no modern holiday songs—celebrates ethical conduct. The one carol is “Good King Wenceslas,” and a strange one it is.

The lyrics are by J. M. Neale (1818-66), and were first published in 1853. Neale is a superstar in the Christmas Carol firmament: he also is responsible for the English lyrics of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” both of which you hear much more frequently than “Good King Wenceslas.” One reason is that the ethical carol tells a story in ten verses, and if you don’t sing them all, the story doesn’t make sense. There are very few recordings of the song in which all the verses are sung. Ten verses is also a lot to remember for any song. My elementary school used to teach the whole carol to sixth graders for the Christmas assembly, but let them have crib sheets. This was before it was decreed that allowing children to learn, sing and listen to some of the most lovely and memorable songs in Western culture was a form of insidious religious indoctrination.

Here is the whole carol:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even;

Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath’ring winter fuel.

‘Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?’

‘Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.’

‘Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither,
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear them thither.’

Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together,
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.

‘Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.’

‘Mark my footsteps, good my page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.’

In his master’s steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

For one thing, “Good King Wenceslas” has little to do with Christmas Day, and doesn’t mention Jesus or the Nativity. The Feast of St. Stephen is also known as Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, December 26. It is a British Commonwealth tradition that never caught on in the U.S. In some European countries like Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, the day is celebrated as a Second Christmas Day. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, History, Religion and Philosophy