Disrespect And Assault In The Operating Room: Our Nightmares Are Real

clown-in-the-operating-room

“A few moments later, the anesthesiologist walks in the room and asks, ‘What do you got?’ Dr. Canby says, ‘Vaginal delivery. Uterine atony. External massage failed. Give her some ketamine.’”…I look at Mrs. Lopez—her eyes are half-closed and vacant. Dr. Canby instructs me to hold her knee. A fellow medical student holds her other knee….Canby then performs an internal bimanual uterine massage. He places his left hand inside her vagina, makes a fist, and presses it against her uterus. I look down and see only his wrist; his entire hand is inside her. Canby puts his right hand on her abdomen and then massages her uterus between his hands. After a few minutes, he feels the uterus contract and harden. He says something like, ‘Atta girl. That’s what I like. A nice, tight uterus.’ And the bleeding stops. The guy saved her life…But then something happened that I’ll never forget. Dr. Canby raises his right hand into the air. He starts to sing ‘La Cucaracha.’ He sings, ‘La Cucaracha, la cucaracha, dada, dada, dada-daaa.’ It looks like he is dancing with her. He stomps his feet, twists his body, and waves his right arm above his head. All the while, he holds her, his whole hand still inside her vagina. He starts laughing. He keeps dancing. And then he looks at me. I begin to sway to his beat. My feet shuffle. I hum and laugh along with him. Moments later, the anesthesiologist yells, ‘Knock it off, assholes!’ And we stop.”

This is an operating room anecdote related in an anonymously authored article published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a respected medical journal. The publication says that the piece is intended to shine light in a dark corner of the medical profession. Oh-oh. The essay is anonymous, I assume, because the author is afraid that there would be professional repercussions from his revealing this—what? Bad habit? Dirty secret? Crime? Reason for us to go stark, raving mad? Continue reading

Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

McCain tweet

Sports Illustrated tweeted out the above image and message that linked to a story by “Extra Mustard.” That masterpiece noted that

Senator John McCain attended Tuesday night’s Dodgers–Diamondbacks game and had a chance to grab a souvenir in the seventh inning.Dodgers’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball over the backstop that went bouncing into the lap of the senior senator from Arizona, but McCain couldn’t get his hands on the ball. But McCain deserves a break from critics: As you can see the ball was approaching from a very awkward angle. Still, this photo from Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo does not make the former presidential candidate look particularly athletic.

Apparently neither the reporter nor any of his/her/its editors were aware that McCain has extremely limited use of his arms as a result of being tortured as a North Vietnam prisoner of war. Both arms were broken by his captors and left untreated for so long that he was permanently handicapped, as anyone who watched even a little bit of his 2008 campaign for President could hardly fail to notice. McCain is also 78 years old, not that respect for seniors who have spent their lives in public service could be expected to be a factor in SI’s commentary.

Would any of the magazine’s staff attending a game dare to openly mock a disabled serviceman who didn’t catch a foul ball?  Probably not, since the likelihood of some fans of the National Pastime taking offense and throwing a beer in their smug, ignorant faces would be a real risk. Ah, but from the safety of an office  in New York City and hiding behind a pseudonym—of course, Extra Mustard might be the jerk’s real name, I suppose—it’s easy to insult an elderly U.S. Senator, military veteran and war hero for the consequences of the wounds he sustained in the service of his nation.

Eventually SI was tipped off to its error, and it quietly removed the last sentence. No apology, of course. Such is the historical, cultural, political and ethical ignorance of a substantial portion of our national media.

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Pointer: Newsbusters

Ethics Dunce: Alexandra Robbins, The Mocking Nurse

Mockery

If you set out to defend ethically indefensible conduct in print, you better be able to do a better a job of it than this.

Alexandra Robbins, in an op-ed causing quite a bit of controversy in the Washington, D.C. area, attempted to not only justify the despicable conduct of medical professionals deriding and ridiculing their unconscious patients, but to sanctify it, arguing, lamely, that doctors and nurses are mocking the unwitting and vulnerable human beings who have placed their lives in their hands in order to “rejuvenate [the medical personnel] and bond them to their teams, while helping to produce high-quality work. In other words, the benefits to the staff — and to the patients they heal — outweigh occasional wounded feelings.”

Right.

Robbins’ protests of virtue amount to a desperate raid on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List, which, as always, operates as virtual Rotting Ethics Detector, or RED. If you find yourself thinking these corrupting self-delusions, you’re on the verge of unethical conduct; if you find yourself saying them, you’ve applied for membership in the Dark Side, and if you are so rationalization-polluted that you proclaim them in print, like Robbins, you shouldn’t be trusted to mail the water bill, much less to cavort in the operating room.

Rationalizations aren’t the only ethical problem with her loathsome essay. The entire thing is a Jumbo, denying the blatantly undeniable. “Oh, no!” readers are told. “We aren’t being disrespectful to patients when we mock their weight, sex organs, or the maladies that placed them in pain, peril and in our care!” Robbins expects us to believe that insults constitute “non-destructive coping measures” that help nurses and doctors “provide the best possible care, even if those methods might seem unprofessional outside of the health-care setting.”

They seem unprofessional because they are unprofessional. Continue reading

Two Deceitful Non-Denial Denials And An Unethically Tardy Whistleblower

Francis

TV shows like “Lie to Me” and “The Mentalist” as well as all the profiling shows like “Criminal Minds” have done a public service by schooling viewers in the tell-tale signs of non-denial denials. Nonetheless, people continue to use them, apparently because they work. Bill Cosby’s lawyers just launched a lulu, responding to the inexplicably re-booted accusations that Cosby was a serial sexual predator in the 70’s. You can’t get more non-denial than this, from lawyer John P. Schmitt on Cosby’s website:

“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true..Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

There is no denial of the alleged rapes to be found here. Yes, the accusations are “decades old”: So what?  So are questions about whether Lizzie Borden was guilty.  The fact that the allegation are decades old means Cosby can’t be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations, but they don’t change anything about the seriousness of the accusations against the erstwhile “America’s Dad.”

Discredited? How have they been discredited? Cosby paid a settlement in one of the cases: that generally makes the allegations look credible (See: Paula Jones/Bill Clinton; Michael Jackson). Sure: “The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true,” and it also doesn’t make them false. That Cosby doesn’t intend to “dignify” the matter with further comment is strategy and posturing. It is significant that the lawyer did not say “He didn’t do it.”

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[UPDATE: Ah HA! Today that statement was taken down, with this taking its place, a joint statement from Dolores Troiani, counsel to Andrea Constand, and Schmitt:

‘The statement released by Mr. Cosby’s attorney over the weekend was not intended to refer in any way to Andrea Constand. As previously reported, differences between Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand were resolved to the mutual satisfaction of Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand years ago. Neither Mr. Cosby nor Ms. Constand intends to comment further on the matter.”

Translation: “Oops. That settlement with the first of Cosby’s accusers was predicated on neither party impugning or accusing the other once the money was paid, and that “discredited” comment risked getting Bill in even more hot water. Never mind!”]

                                                                                                                                  ——————-

Lawyers aren’t permitted to lie, though. Then again, they aren’t supposed to mislead the public with deceitful non-denials, either.

Then we have CNBC’s response to ex-CNBC reporter Melissa Francis, who followed Jonathan Gruber’s admissions of rigged math to get the Affordable Care Act past “stupid voters” with a relevant anecdote of her own. Francis, now a Fox Business anchor,  claims that the network “silenced” her when she questioned the merits and specifically the misleading numbers for the Affordable Care Act when it was being rammed through the legislative process. She told Fox News that she was called on the carpet by CNBC brass and told to stop, on the grounds that such criticism was “disrespectful to the President.”

A CNBC representative responded: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Jon Stewart

Meanwhile, Lincoln pretty much just lay around after he was President...

Meanwhile, Lincoln pretty much just lay around after he was President…

Face the Nation had George W. Bush on today as its primary guest,  so the show’s lead in, CBS This Morning, asked its guest, “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, what question he would ask the man who preceded President Obama in the Oval Office.  Stewart’s smirking reply,

“ ‘Tell me about umber and how it helps you in painting cats.’ Jimmy Carter’s like 108? He’s out in Africa pulling guinea worms out of children’s feet, trying to cure them. Bush is at home. ‘Bring me my fruit bowl. Doin’ a still life!”

The technical term for this is, I believe,“being a dick.” Yes, it’s vulgar, but the usual terms don’t quite do Stewart’s gratuitous and unfair nastiness justice in trhis instance.

I recognize that Stewart, who eschewed a flood of well-deserved Democrat jokes over the past five days because he could not get around his massive anti-Republican biases, is in mourning over the GOP electoral avalanche that turned the nation red at all levels of government in all regions. Poor baby. Nonetheless, mocking one President of the United States for his activities in retirement because they do not measure up, in Stewart’s value system, to what Presidents are supposed to do is evidence of a stunning lack of grace, decency,proportion, self-awareness and common sense. Continue reading

Let’s Play “Pick The Most Unethical Lawsuit!”

Bad suits

Hello, hello, hello, Game Show fans! My, what a great crowd we have today. I’m your host, Wink Marshall, and today our contestants are going to compete for Most Unethical Law Suit. As always, you, our home audience, will decide who get the prize, a lifetime supply of extremely expensive boloney, courtesy of our sponsor, Oscar Meyer. Are you ready? Then, let’s meet our contestants! First, heeeere’s…

Andrew Rector!

You remember Andrew, right? In June, I wrote…

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters. …Let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. …Unfortunately, Rector, whose name was unknown and whose sleeping form would have been quickly forgotten, decided that his humiliation was so great that he needed to sue…for $10, 000,000. Rector filed the suit against ESPN, Shulman, Kruk, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball…and asks for damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing malicious and false statements said about him,including that Rector is “a fatty cow” that represents a “symbol of failure.” …None of the defendants actually said any of these things (“fatty cow”?). Rector’s suit is apparently making the creative legal argument that ESPN’s mild mockery seeded the vicious mockery elsewhere on the web.

Welcome back to Ethics Alarms, Andrew, old friend!  Try to sta awake, now! Has the Streisand Effect kicked in yet? We’re doing what we can to help!

Now let’s meet someone completely new to Ethics Alarms, Contestant #2, Continue reading

Esurance Wants You To Know That Old People Are Ignorant And Pathetic

It was the Candy Crush commercial that did it. I nearly red-flagged Esurance for its commercial earlier this year showing “Lucille,” an elderly, technologically clueless auto insurance consumer whose version of a Facebook wall consisted of posting photographs on an actual wall in her home, but decided, “OK, maybe that’s just Lucille. After all, the ad shows another senior trying to put her straight.”  The recent Esurance ad featuring an elderly idiot who plays “Candy Crush” by hitting hard candies with a hammer was too much, though.

The dirty little secret of the political correctness culture is that the groups most associated with political conservatism—males, seniors, whites and Christians—are acceptable targets for bigotry, denigration and ridicule. Add to that the overweight, who are always fair game for derision today, and the double standard in mockery is clear. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Obama Outhouse Float: Not Racist, Just Wrong”

Obama float

Rick Jones, a drama professor, deep thinker and superb writer, weighed in on the controversy over the tasteless Independence Day float in Norfolk, Nebraska. (As an aside: did my trip to Nebraska last week unleash something in the Ethics Cosmos? First this story, then the Nebraska judge telling the Supremes to “stfu”?) Rick courageously wades into the messy and contentious area, often discussed here, of racial motivations behind criticism of Barack Obama. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Obama Outhouse Float: Not Racist, Just Wrong:

I’ve written about this incident, as well, and we generally but don’t totally agree.

I’m intrigued by the discussion of racism. Certainly I agree that nothing in the events described qualifies as inherently racist… but I think the word “inherently” matters here. The fact that there is not an obvious racial motivation for what is clearly an intentionally offensive float, one which displays its creator’s “disgust,” does not mean that it is intrinsically devoid of such volition. Even the little boy who cried “wolf” was right once. Similarly, whereas there are those who reflexively scream “racism” at every criticism of the current President, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t expressions of anti-Obama sentiment which really are grounded in the fact that he has a little more melanin than you or I do.

In this case, Ms. Kathurima and her daughter have experienced racism—or believe they have—and you say that you “don’t blame her” for perceiving it in this instance. Nor do I. That Mr. Remmich intended to insult the POTUS, I think goes without saying. Why, specifically, he set out to do so is an open question. Maybe it’s racial. Maybe it’s political. Maybe he knows his neighbors and pandered to their predilections. I certainly don’t know, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t, really, either.

I grapple with a variation on this theme constantly in my professional work, especially in the area of communication theory as it applies to aesthetics. Oversimplified a little, the modernist/positivist view is that the sender of a message creates and encodes meaning, and the receiver’s job is to “find” the meaning through a process of decoding. The post-positivist view, however, is to argue that the sender catalyzes rather than creates meaning, that meaning is in fact created by the receiver of the message. To me, the two positions are equally valid.

One of my standard approaches to this dilemma is to suggest to students that “somewhere in this room is someone who has had a major fight with a loved one because what one of you thought you said was not what the other thought he/she heard.” Moreover, whether the “blame” for a misinterpretation should be placed with the sender or the receiver is likely to be influenced in your mind not so much by philosophical or theoretical concerns as by which of those positions you happened to occupy on the occasion in question.

We are left, then, with two significant questions, neither or which I am prepared to answer with confidence. 1). Is the meaning of a communication determined by the sender, the receiver, or by some presumably objective external agent? 2). At what point does a particular reaction pass from confirmation bias into, well, experience?

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Continue reading

On Mockery, The Streisand Effect, Incompetent Lawyers And The Sleeping Yankee Fan

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters.

This is a familiar pattern of unethical public mockery, and we have become inured to it. Though the ESPN team’s jibes were rather mild in nature, and Rector’s legitimate embarrassment quota would be far, far less than, say, that of George Costanza when this happened at the U.S. Open, let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. Who knows why Rector was sleeping? Maybe he was up all night with a dying relative or a grievously ill child—Shulman and Kruk don’t know. And if he chooses to pay for a ticket and nap during the game—and it wasn’t exactly a scintillating game, I should add—so what? Continue reading

The Obama Outhouse Float: Not Racist, Just Wrong

Racist float? Why not? Well, a) Bill Clinton's not black b) it's not a 4th of July parade, c) this is in Germany and d) it's not Obama.

Racist float? Why not? Well, a) Bill Clinton’s not black b) it’s not a 4th of July parade, c) the parade is in Germany and d) most important of all, it’s not President Obama.

It was almost a year ago that a rodeo clown donned an Obama mask, and the NAACP demanded that the Secret Service investigate him, and the clown lost his job. It is considered acceptable that in the nation’s capital, five people in  big-headed costumes depicting the Mt. Rushmore Presidents (and William Howard Taft) race around a baseball stadium as the crowd laughs at their antics, but any mockery of the current President of the United States will be immediately attacked as “racist.”

Thus an appallingly stupid, tasteless and inappropriate float in a Norfolk, Nebraska Independence Day parade is further straining already damaged race relations in this country, because it depicted a distressed man coming out of an outhouse labelled the  “Obama Presidential Library.” The Norfolk Odd Fellows Lodge, which coordinates the annual parade, is defending the float, which was entered as political satire (it even won an award). Others, however, have condemned it as, you guessed it, racist.  Here it is:

Obama float

It isn’t racist. Although many media reports have described the zombie-like figure exiting the outhouse as a representation of the President, it clearly isn’t. Does President Obama use a walker for support? The float’s designer, Dale Remmich, who does use a walker and dresses like the figure on the float, explained that the figure was meant to be Remmich himself, tinged green out of disgust for, among other things, the Veterans Administration fiasco. As for portraying Obama’s future library as an outhouse, that’s not racial imagery, though it is obviously a statement communicating criticism and disrespect. The same imagery would not have puzzled anyone if it had been used to criticize any other recent President; nobody would have looked at the exact same float except with the label “George W. Bush Presidential Library” on the outhouse and said, “I don’t get it. Bush isn’t black.” That’s because it isn’t the design of the float that makes it racist, just as it wasn’t the use of a mask that made the rodeo clown’s act racist, in the eyes of those making the accusation. What makes it racist is the criticism and the mockery, its target. Criticism and mockery of other Presidents went with the territory. Criticism of the first black President is by definition racist. Continue reading