Do No Harm

Medical professionals like many other professionals (including engineers and politicians) make oaths that are intended to show their commitment to ethical conduct in their chosen profession. The oath of a given profession, whether it is the Hippocratic oath (that oath made by doctors and medical professionals), the oath of the engineer, or the oath of inauguration for a president or other successful politician, or any other oath, is designed to demonstrate the trustworthiness of a given person because of the seriousness of the work that they do. Determining the trustworthiness of people is a serious task that fills up a great deal of our concerns as people in this present evil age.

Unfortunately, there are a great many people for whom the oaths that they make are simply empty words devoid of meaning and significance apart from a way to increase the trust that others have, allowing them to do what they wish. Instead of an oath being a sign of one’s moral and ethical commitments to a high standard of behavior in a field of immense public interest where trust is required, all too often an oath is simply a tactical means of achieving the trust of others without making any commitment to any moral standard at all besides narrow self-interest. And when trust is violated repeatedly, the reputation of all people in a given field (or any other field) suffer as a result of greater suspicion.

Sometimes, though, the motives are even worse than self-interest, which is at least a neutral motive. This is the case in a massively troubling scandal that has involved a person who potentially infected tens of thousands of people with Hepatitis C over the course of his checkered career as a lab technician with various hospitals [1]. It is difficult to imagine what sort of motives would drive a man to inject patients with his own diseased blood as a way of making them sick. I would not wish to speculate on such matters either, or with the lying and deception that was used to cover up the practice, except to note that it suggests a heart of immense hatred for others.

When someone goes to a hospital, they are placing a lot of trust in others, given the large number of injections and fluids and medicines that are transferred in and out of someone while they are undergoing care. We submit to such things because we assume that the doctors and nurses have our best interests at heart and because they know what they are doing better than we ourselves. Neither of these assumptions is necessarily correct, but to assume the contrary, that others do not have our best interests in heart and that they do not know what they are doing, makes it impossible to develop any kind of trust in others at all, and I do not wish to live with that sort of paranoia.

So, what can be done about this sort of problem? Given that untrustworthy people are going to want to insert themselves in positions that give them a trust that they do not deserve based on their own conduct or character, it is clear that most of the solutions must come from institutions and professions themselves. Perhaps it might be wise to adopt some of the methods of those who have tried to reform cities of major crime and started seriously dealing with minor offenses as a way of finding those who were covering up big crimes with smaller ones. This, apparently, is what as done by the lab technician discussed earlier, who lied and went into areas that he was not supposed to access, things that could and should have been dealt with before the full extent of his crimes was made known.

Trust is a huge area of difficulty in many aspects of our lives in all parts of the world and in all walks of society. A lack of trust generally leads to a lack of openness and a lack of outgoing concern toward others because of our own fears and insecurity. We all have to wrestle with the ways that we can make others be safe and feel safe around us, and make sure that our motives are genuine and honorable rather than exploitation. Working to develop safe trust with others is a difficult task, and none of us are perfect either in drawing those lines or in respecting the lines of others, as hard as we may try. But we need to make the effort and keep at it, for the possibility of trust within our families, institutions, and societies is at stake and little concern has been shown for how to rebuild it so far on the large scale.

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/hepatitis-c-serial-infector-could-spread-disease-thousands-160548764–abc-news-topstories.html

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Do No Harm

  1. tyler says:

    I don’t agree. punishing minor offences like they were serious just makes a hostile environment. how about punishing serious offences like they we’re matters of life and death which they all too often are. if evil people were punished appropriately incidents like these wouldn’t happen.

    • That was the point I was making. But all too often little things hide big things, and being disciplined for minor offenses will often keep larger offenses from happening in the first place.

      • tyler says:

        well i have a feeling that this is the approach that will be taken, because addressing the larger problem with our society denies the fiction that our legal system is built on. namely that crimes: damages done to society can be re-payed by people sitting in prison with other malefactors doing nothing at best or planning their next crimes upon their release at some arbitrarily appointed time.

      • I have written about this topic before in other circumstances, but a big part of our problem is the belief that people have to pay a metaphorical debt to society rather than paying a literal debt to their victims and surviving family. That is beyond the scope of the blog entry in question, though.

  2. Meagain says:

    Tyler, could you name one evil person deserving of death?

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