As Bill Clinton might say (and probably has, maybe more than once), it depends on what your definition of “wrong” is.
Millions of Texans were left without electricity this week in the middle of the state’s power crisis following a massive winter storm. The Senator’s wife Heidi sent text messages to friends and neighbors complaining that their home was “FREEZING,” and that she wanted the family to escape on the 17th to someplace warmer, at least until Sunday. The mission, if her husband chose to accept it: get to the luxury Ritz-Carlton in sunny Cancún, Mexico. The destination is apparently a family favorite. The GOP Senator did accept, and the Freezing Cruzes fled Houston, hopping an afternoon flight. The consensus of the news media, the commentariat and social media was that…
In fact, you would think Cruz had been caught having a secret romantic rendezvous with a goat. Incriminating photos of Cruz and his wife boarding the flight launched a full-fledged scandal. How dare he flee a crisis when his state was in misery? Ted responded by playing the Parent Card, explaining he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and to chaperone his daughters and their friends, and he promised he was coming back yesterday, which he did.
When he returned, Cruz admitted that his family trip had been a mistake. That is undeniable.
One of the policy and medical ethics issues that is looming larger as the pandemic continues is the requirement that hospitals not be burdened by “non-essential surgery and medical procedures.”
I agree: it would have been better if Ethics Alarms has more precisely defined “essential surgery and medical procedures” in the previous post on the issue, when I examined the question of whether abortion can be ethically put in that category as Texas and Ohio have decreed. Abortion, as that post noted, is a particularly poor choice for such analysis, given that our society cannot agree on what it is, other than the Supreme Court’s ruling that whatever it is, a woman has a Constitutionally right to do it.
Incidentally: can we agree that there is also a constitutional right to have any surgery or medical procedure? It hasn’t been specifically stated by the Court, but I assume that the abortion precedent applies to everything else as well, from having a kidney transplant to getting a wart removed to acquiring breast implants. These would all fall under the right of privacy and inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Forbidding any surgery, non-essential or otherwise, is a big deal, and my guess is that a judicial challenge to the whole concept would stand a substantial chance of success. What is essential surgery to me might not be such to you, but frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, and unlike an abortion, my procedure isn’t killing anyone. Continue reading →
Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, setting off a new front in the fight over abortion rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
Both states said they were trying to preserve extremely precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.
But abortion rights activists said that abortions should be counted as essential and that people could not wait for the procedure until the pandemic was over.
On Monday, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, clarified that the postponement of surgeries and medical procedures announced by Gov. Greg Abbott over the weekend included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Failure to do so, he said, could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.
Is abortion truly a non-essential medical procedure? Is it ethical to treat it as one? This is a perfect storm of an ethics conflict colliding with an ethical dilemma, with so many of the factors that confound ethical analysis present. For example, is the shortage of beds and the stresses on medical services really the only factors being considered by those in making the policy decisions in Texas and Ohio? Is the pandemic really a cover, in whole or in part, for other motives, like a desire to limit abortions generally for as long as possible? Is the ethical response by a pregnant woman to comply with the policy, even to the point of giving birth. There are many ethics decisions involved here.
Let’s just focus on one of them, the decision to call abortions non-essential procedures, and run it through one of the ethics decision-making systems. I’m going to use Professor Laura Nash’s 12 Questions, from her Harvard Business Review article, “Ethics without the Sermon” (1981)]
Pro Publica reports that Stebbins, Alaska, a Bering Strait village of 646 people, employed Nimeron Mike as a police officer. When he applied for the job, Mike was a registered sex offender. He had served a total of six years in various Alaska jails and prisons, and been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault—and that’s not a complete list.
But he isn’t an exception or an anomaly in Stebbins, Pro Publica’s investigation found. Before he was hired, the Stebbins police chief pleaded guilty in 2017 to throwing a teenage relative to the ground and threatening to kill her after getting drunk on bootleg booze (liquor is illegal in the town.) All seven of the police officers working under him as of July 1, 2019 have pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges. Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind. The seven-man police force has served a combined six years in jails, prisons and halfway houses on dozens of criminal charges, and that doesn’t include Nimeron Mike, who was fired in March.
It’s a violation of Alaska public safety regulations for a police force to hire a convicted felon to work as a city police officer, but those laws idealistic aspirations and dead letters in small towns and cities where the job is considered unattractive and the pay is low. At least 14 cities in Alaska have employed police officers whose criminal records should have prevented them from being hired under Department of Public Safety regulations, with more than 34 officers currently in uniform who are supposed to be legally ineligible for these jobs. The vast majority of the illegal police hires were never reported by municipalities to the state regulatory board as required by law. Continue reading →
The real mystery here is how the school administrators and teachers could not have seen this coming. Thus the ethical value at issue is, as it often seems to be with public education, competence, or rather the lack of it.
In April of 2016, Marshfield High (in Wisconsin) presented its annual musical. The production involved a cast of 40 students with 30 more in the crew and orchestra. Students from two elementary schools were in the cast. The show? Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” based on the story of the Von Trapp singers and their escape from Austria when the Nazis took over.
In March 2016, a complaint was received from a parent alleging that the musical’s casting violated the district’s non-discrimination policy. The parent asked why the cast did not “represent the demographics of the school district” and why a deliberate effort was not made “to ensure diversity in the cast.” The parent further said that even if the organizers of the play did not intend to discriminate, they did so “in the most overt and egregious manner.” For more than a year, district officials tried to keep the complaint and the resulting investigation out of the news. Now the investigation is out, and it found that indeed the casting did violate the policy.
I didn’t have to read the whole article, or much of it at all, to guess what happened. All I needed to know was that a high school with a diverse student body had chosen “The Sound of Music” as its annual musical. Everyone has seen the movie, and knows that it is about the cutest Austrian family on Earth stocked with a group of brothers and sisters whose ascending ages and heights constitute the most vivid visual image of the play. High schools seldom produce this musical, for exactly these reasons. A theater department barging ahead with this Rodger and Hammerstein classic will be instantly risk appearing to exclude anyone who isn’t so white that their brilliant gleam will blind the audience (and African-American Nazis are even more jarring than Hispanic-American and Asian Austrians), or it must commit to the most show-undermining non-traditional casting imaginable. There isn’t even a true choice: if you produce this show in a public school, you have to be ready to cast a black Maria, brown Nazis, Asian Austrian nuns and a brood of Von Trapps that suggests that the Captain was rather naughty in his travels, if admirably open to amorous affections regardless of race, color or creed. Continue reading →
There is an update on story behind the post that sparked the latest Comment of the Day. The racist professor at Trinity College in Connecticut who made inflammatory social media statements advocating killing whites and urging potential rescuers to allow white men and Republicans to die as part of the effort to destroy a “racist system” has reportedly fled the state after receiving death threats. The “I’ve received death threats” is now the reflex tactic for anyone who is under fire for hateful and vicious social media content: the idea is to generate sympathy and victim status. However, excessive negative response to irresponsible speech does not mitigate the offense. No, Williams should not be threatened. He still should be fired.
My favorite Comments of the Day occur when an intelligent reader candidly explores his or her own thoughts and feelings on a difficult ethics topic without filtering them. Even the contradictions are enlightening. Spartan has proven herself expert on such commentary before, and this is another example.
My husband and I have this discussion quite often. He feels there is no duty to rescue any of the assholes of the world, and his definition of what constitutes an asshole is far broader than mine. (For e.g., he has Bill Gates on his list because of his proliferation of a shitty operating system.)
The reason we have this discussion is that I do feel that there is a duty to rescue, but I do not feel that this duty is absolute. (And also he is a nutter, as his position on Bill Gates demonstrates.) I have no duty to be a live organ donor, but if a friend or family member needed one, I would do it. If Trump asked me, I would not. It’s absolutely my call and I while I don’t wish him to die, I would rather reserve that kidney for someone more worthy. Continue reading →
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 →