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?

Stipulated:

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

“Albuquerque Fire Chief Evaluating Training After Dispatcher Hung Up on Caller”? Why Yes, I Think That Would Be Prudent!

"No...now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let's try it again..."

“No…now, see, Mr, Sanchez, this is NOT how we would like you to react with a 911 caller. Let’s try it again…”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: watch out for touchy 911 dispatchers.

Seventeen-year-old Esperanza Quintero called 911 after her friend Jaydon Chavez-Silver was shot last month. She tried to stop Chavez-Silver’s bleeding and gave him CPR.

“I am keeping him alive!” Quintero is heard saying on the 911 call, which was answered by dispatcher Matthew Sanchez, a ten-year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department.

Sanchez asked, “Is he not breathing?”

The teen responded, “Barely!”

On the recording, she can be heard frantically encouraging Chavez-Silver to keep breathing.

“One more breath! One more breath!” Quintero told here wounded friend. “There you go Jaydon. One more breath! There you go Jaydon. Good job! Just stay with me, OK? OK?”

Sanchez then asked again, “Is he breathing?”

Quintero responded, “He is barely breathing, how many times do I have to fucking tell you?”

Apparently this outburst deeply, deeply offended Sanchez, who felt that the use of the vulgarity justified him leaving the panicked teen to deal with her dying friend by herself. “OK, you know what ma’am? You can deal with it yourself. I am not going to deal with this, OK?” the dispatcher said, and he disconnected Quintero as she pleaded for help.

So there.

As you know, I’m a big fan of civility, and we really should discipline ourselves and our children to avoid profanity and  vulgarity in dealings with others, in the workplace or anywhere else. Mutual respect is a cornerstone of ethical conduct generally, and civility is how we recognize the inherent respect we owe every fellow citizen. Having one’s friend dying in front of you is a stressful situation, however, and I think the collective effects for fear, panic, desperation and stress creates sufficient adverse influences on a teen that a lapse of decorum should be excused or at least tolerated, don’t you? Particularly when the listener  is allegedly an adult and trained rescue personnel?

Jaydon died. A rescue squad was dispatched before the hang-up, which only means that what Sanchez did could have been worse.

Albuquerque Fire Chief David Downey  called the actions of dispatcher Matthew Sanchez on June 26 “unforgivable” and said Sanchez, who had the sense to resign, at least, should not have hung up on the caller. Downey  says he is examining the training procedures.

Good analysis. We can all stop worrying now, at least those of us in Albuquerque.

And we should be grateful, should we not, for Mr. Sanchez providing a superb lesson to all of our young people about the important of avoiding potty mouth?

 

The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study

This is Dirt Harry's badge. Seconds later, he throws it into a river. Lots of other police will be doing the same.

This is Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan’s badge. Seconds later, he throws it into a river. Lots of other police officers will soon be doing the same.

Yesterday, for the third time in my life, I was the first one on the scene after a fellow human being’s death. This time, it was a very close friend and, though it has little to do with this post, a wonderful man. I had headed out to his home because I was worried: an unusually reliable and conscientious individual, he had missed several appointments the last few days and hadn’t been answering e-mails and phone calls. When I was told about this, I immediately suspected the worst, and sadly, I was right.

His car was outside his house, and though it was mid-day and he was supposed to be somewhere else, I could see that the TV was on. In front of his door, getting soaked in the rain,  was a package: it had been delivered there on December 2. I got no response to my bangs on the door. It was time to call 911.

The police responded quickly. I’m not going to name the department, which has an excellent reputation here, and I do not fault the officers, who were diligent and polite, and who set about investigating the scene professionally and quickly. Nonetheless, after a full 90 minutes, after which they could not discern any more than I had before they came, they would not enter the house.

They told me that they could not risk being sued, and that there were elaborate policies and procedures that had to be checked off first. The officers had to track down their supervisor (it was a Saturday), and, they said, more than one official would have to sign off, to protect the department

“He could be drunk; he could be shacked up; he could just want to be alone,” they told me. “The law says his privacy can’t be breached, even by us.”

“But he’s not any of those things,” I said. “He doesn’t do any of those things, and if he were OK, there wouldn’t be a four-day-old package outside.”

“Maybe he took a trip on a whim.”

“He would have called and cancelled those commitments,” I said. “Look, you and I both know that he could be inside, on the brink of death, with every second bringing him closer. The only alternative is that he’s died already. If you won’t do it, let me break in, chase me, and you’ll find him legally as you pursue me. How’s that?”

The police weren’t sold. Finally, after a full 90 minutes, they requisitioned a ladder from a neighbor and were able to see into a second floor window. My friend was visible on the floor, and then they moved quickly, breaking down the door. They were too late by days. They might have been too late by minutes though. All those procedures and policies that forced the police to avoid taking action that in this case, under these circumstances, were prudent and that might have saved a life imperiled.

The lesson is only this: if we cannot trust police to make decisions like this, we obviously are not going to trust them to decide when to fire their weapons. Laws, rules and procedures are rigid, and have to be examined slowly; real life operates in the shadows of uncertainty, among the loopholes, gray areas and ambiguities, and it moves fast. The protests and demands in the wake of the recent police controversies will undoubtedly result in more regulations, policies and laws, but there is good reason to believe that they will also make us less safe rather than more safe, and make it difficult to find reasonable, dedicated, ethical men and women willing to serve as police, a job which, we seem to be deciding, should be subjected to strict liability whether the officer acts too quickly, or not quickly enough—judged, of course, after the results are in. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Hero Alan Ehrlich Responds

"citation..for..making...the...police...look...bad.."

Ethics Hero Alan Ehrlich, the South Pasadena citizen ticketed for directing traffic at a busy intersection when the lights failed and no police responded, has provided some valuable insight and additional details in his comments to my post about his conduct and subsequent treatment, “When Ethics Hero Meets Ethics Dunce: Alan Ehrlich and the Spirit of Citizenship vs. South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne and Official Arrogance.” It is collected and posted below. Thanks, Alan. Continue reading

When Ethics Hero Meets Ethics Dunce: Alan Ehrlich and the Spirit of Citizenship vs. South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne and Official Arrogance

"Step away from the intersection, sir! You are not permitted to make my officers look bad by doing the essential jobs they cannot."

When a traffic light in South Pasadena went out during the morning rush hour, citizen Alan Ehrlich stepped into the breach and began directing traffic at the major intersection.

“I grabbed a bright orange shirt that I have and a couple of orange safety flags. I took it upon myself to help get motorists through that intersection faster,” said Ehrlich. Before he took action, traffic was backed up for more than a mile, as vehicles took more than a half hour to maneuver through the intersection.

“It was just kind of chaos of cars . . . there were stop signs up. But people were challenging each other to get through the intersection,” said a witness  who works at an office nearby. He reported that Ehrlich’s stint as volunteer traffic cop had traffic flowing within ten minutes.

South Pasadena police then responded to the scene, ordered Ehrlich to stop, and issued him a ticket, but refused to direct traffic at the intersection themselves. South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne explained that he did not have the man power needed to staff officers when lights fail, and that Ehrlich should have just allowed traffic to back up. Continue reading