Sunday, July 26, 2009

Conscience or Career?

By Alan Burkhart

More and more often we encounter news of an employee forced to choose between his or her job and performing an act which that person finds morally reprehensible. This occurs most frequently in the medical and pharmaceutical professions.

Consider the case of Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo,  a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. According to a recent article in the New York Post:

A Brooklyn nurse [Cenzon-DeCarlo] claims she was forced to choose between her religious convictions and her job when Mount Sinai Hospital ordered her to assist in a late-term abortion against her will.

"It felt like a horror film unfolding," said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, 35, who claims she has had gruesome nightmares and hasn't been able to sleep since the May 24 incident...

Cenzon-DeCarlo is a devout Catholic and niece of a Filipino Bishop. Given the Vatican's strict interpretation of scriptures regarding abortion, it's easy to see why the young lady was so upset by the situation.

From the Vatican's "Declaration on procured abortion":
You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born."[6] Athenagoras emphasizes that Christians consider as murderers those women who take medicines to procure an abortion; he condemns the killers of children, including those still living in their mother's womb, "where they are already the object of the care of divine Providence." Tertullian did not always perhaps use the same language; he nevertheless clearly affirms the essential principle: "To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already one."

However, the abortion in question was evidently not one sought as a matter of convenience or after-the-fact birth control. Was this case  justifiable as a "clinical" abortion? That depends upon whom you ask.

Mt. Sinai Hospital staff allegedly told  Cenzon-DeCarlo that the patient was suffering from preeclampsia and required immediate treatment in the form of a late-term abortion (the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy).

Cenzon-DeCarlo claims that the patient was not taking magnesium treatments – the standard therapy for preeclampsia – and showed no outward signs that she was in immediate danger.

WebMD has the following to say regarding preeclampsia and eclampsia :
Also referred to as toxemia, preeclampsia is a condition that pregnant women can get. It is marked by high blood pressure accompanied with a high level of protein in the urine. Women with preeclampsia will often also have swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. Preeclampsia, when present, usually appears during the second half of pregnancy, generally in the latter part of the second or in the third trimesters, although it can occur earlier.

Eclampsia is the final and most severe phase of preeclampsia and occurs when preeclampsia is left untreated. In addition to the previously mentioned signs of preeclampsia, women with eclampsia often have seizures. Eclampsia can cause coma and even death of the mother and baby and can occur before, during, or after childbirth.

Cenzon-DeCarlo has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming her religious rights were violated.

There also have been several high-profile cases in recent years involving pharmacists who refused to sell female customers a "morning after" pill to terminate a possible pregnancy.

Where do we draw the line between legal / ethical responsibility and religious freedom?

Where do we draw the line regarding an employee's rights and the rights of the customer and the employer?

While I am admantly pro-life, I cannot agree with those who attempt to alter their workplace to fit their own personal beliefs. Let's consider some admittedly over-the-top examples:

  • If you object to pornography, should you apply as a salesperson at "Ample Annie's Triple-X Emporium?"
  • If you're vehemently anti-gun, why are you working at Smith and Wesson?
  • If you're a card-carrying member of PETA, should you be working at a slaughter house?
  • If you are a nurse and you object to abortion, shouldn't you be working at a facility that does not perform abortions?

A business, any business, reflects the personality and beliefs of its owner and management. It is not the place of employees to attempt to fundamentally alter that business. If you're offended by the fact that your boss sells Cajun-Grilled Breast of Spotted Owl, you do not have the right to refuse to serve it. Either take care of the customer, or hunt a new job.

Walgreens sells the "morning after pill." They recently fired several pharmacists who refused to dispense the drug because of their pro-life views. In the moral sense, I agree with the pharmacists. But no one was twisting their arms to make them work at Walgreens. If they found the practice unacceptable, they should have simply moved on.

True enough, President Bush strengthened the rules protecting employees whose conscience was at odds with employer policy. It's also likely that President Obama will undo those rules. And I will find it impossible to disagree with him if he does. The inmates cannot be allowed to run the asylum. For a business to provide goods and services consistent with its mission statement and advertising, everyone has to be on the same page.

As a trucker, if I object to the consumption of alcohol but go to work for a company that routinely hauls beer, how can I complain? When my dispatcher tells me to head over to Miller Brewing Company, shall I tell him, "Sorry, I don't do beer loads?" Do I have that right?

No, I don't. I'm basically asking to get fired and will probably get what I asked for.

If you want your views to be respected, then you must be willing to respect the views of others. Whether you agree with those views is irrelevant. Respect is a two-way street. That's not to say that you can't try sitting down with your boss and discussing the matter. But if your boss says you have to be willing to do whatever it is you find objectionable, then you have two options: You can comply, or you can hit the help wanted section in the classifieds.

The boss may not always be right, but he's always the boss.

Sources and Related Reading:




ACLJ sues Walgreens over ‘morning-after’ pill firings

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

How did I get here?

CellPhone_Texting That has to be the question Staten Island teen Alexa Longueira was asking when she suddenly found herself down a New York City manhole.

According to MyFox New York:

Alexa Longueira was walking down Victory Boulevard and getting ready to text-message when she fell into an open sewer manhole. Now the city is trying to figure out why the manhole was left open and unblocked. Alexa suffered some cuts and scrapes but is otherwise OK.

So just how did Alexa end up in a manhole?

Seems the young lady was too busy texting to pay attention to where she was going. Pardon me for saying so, but given that she was walking around in one of the world’s largest and busiest cities, shouldn’t she have been paying attention to her environment? Perhaps I’m being unreasonable.

It’s a given that the manhole shouldn’t have been uncovered. The city workers involved say they’d left it open only for a moment to grab some cones. They probably assumed that people walking down the street would be paying attention. Perhaps they were being unreasonable, too.

Here’s an interesting thought: Had Alexa sauntered down the street a few seconds later, there is every chance she’d have tripped over the cones and gone head first into the manhole. She might have died, and this story would have lost all of its entertainment value. Do you doubt me? Think about it – she was obviously paying zero attention to the path ahead of her. If she didn’t see that gaping hole, why would she see a rubber cone?

And of course, Alexa’s parents say they plan to file a lawsuit. If they cared one whit about their daughter, they’d apologize to the city and thoroughly discipline poor Alexa for being so careless with her own safety.

Every day I see people texting while they’re driving. It’s insane. Many areas have enacted laws against texting while driving, which is a good indicator of just how serious the problem has become. Mind you, I love my little Motorola cell phone. And yes, I send the occasional text message. But if I’m walking, I stop. And I never… NEVER text while driving. You should be very relieved about that since I drive an 18-wheeler for a living. Remember: I’m out there. Somewhere. Always.

And please explain to me how you can be watching where you’re going while concentrating on making a smiley face on a 3-inch screen? Answer: You can’t. And that’s why sooner or later you’ll crash into the back of my trailer at 70 mph. Perhaps your family will have “LOL! :-)” etched on your gravestone.

Come on people, grow up just a little bit, okay? I’d hate to meet you by accident.

Related Reading:

MyFox article

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Absent Friends

NOTE: Because a police investigation is ongoing and the person described in this post is charged but not yet convicted, I am not using her name. She is referred to here simply as “XXX.”

I have had a death in my family. Sammi, my 4-legged feline companion died sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Had she died of natural causes I could deal with it. But Sammi's death was anything but natural.

For 7 years, I had trusted XXX with a key to my house and each day (while I'm on the road) she would come over and feed her and scoop the litter box and spend some time with her. XXX also would let me know when the electric bill arrived and tell me how much it was so I could get it paid, often by sending her the money via ComChek (a money transfer service). I paid her for her time each month, and for 7 years she took reasonably good care of Sammi. It was an imperfect but workable arrangement.

Tuesday I was unable to contact XXX. I knew the electric bill was due. So I called the electric company to find out the amount. That’s when I discovered the previous bill was never paid and the electricity had been off for several days. I was over 400 miles away from home in Tennessee. I contacted a friend and sent her the money and she paid the bill for me. But no one had a key to my house. No way to check on Sammi.

I drove nearly non-stop from TN to my home in MS. I found Sammi dead in front of her EMPTY water dispenser and EMPTY food dispenser. Whether it was starvation, dehydration, or cooked alive by the searing heat inside a mobile home with no a/c (100+ degrees OUTSIDE), I'll never know. It hardly matters at this point - Sammi died alone. And she suffered horribly. She died wondering why neither XXX or I was there to help her.

XXX, a neighbor, mother of two young children, and the woman whom for 7 years I had trusted with the well-being of a cherished pet, went down in one of the largest drug busts in the history of the state of MS - fifty people taken into custody and over a million dollars‘ worth of meth confiscated. My understanding is that she is accused of being a transporter.

I didn’t find out about the bust until Tuesday evening, and by then it was too late. Sammi was trapped here in the house for over a week before I even knew there was a problem. The drug trade has claimed yet another innocent life, and deprived me of one of my best friends.

I have no words to describe how I feel, except that it feels as if I have been poisoned. Everywhere I look, I see something that reminds me of her. I cannot bear to look at her scratching post, yet neither can I bear to dispose of it. I cannot walk into the kitchen without seeing her tiny form lying there where I found her, even though I’ve laid her to rest. I still catch myself looking at the floor before I move my office chair, because one night I rolled across the tip of her tail as she slept near my feet.

If I have learned anything from this, it is that none of us lives in a vacuum. What we do, or do not do, affects others. I could blame all this on XXX. I could rant and rave about her criminal activities and how Sammi’s blood is on her hands. And to a degree I would be correct. But, no. I grew complacent, content to let someone else tend to my affairs in my absence, and Sammi paid the price for that complacency. And I also will pay a price, tendered in haunting “what-if” questions that will gnaw at me for years to come.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Perhaps had I paid a bit more attention, I'd have questioned how XXX could drive an expensive SUV on a fixed income. Perhaps I’d have picked up on some hint that things were not as they appeared. Then again, perhaps not. I'll never know, but I'll always wonder. I'll not bury myself in guilt, but Sammi was my charge. I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something I could have done differently that might have saved her.

Warm thanks to all of the friends and family who’ve been so supportive over the last 24 hours. Some may be curious as to why I’ve posted this, given how (very) unpleasant it is to write about it. Three reasons: To let the rest of my good friends know what’s transpired, to attempt to clear my head a bit by articulating what’s spinning around inside it, and lastly because it’s a good reminder of just how painful the consequences can be when we behave irresponsibly.

The link below goes to a news video (it's a pop-up window) regarding the bust. XXX is among those shown walking in chains into the courthouse. I’ll not say which is her, because she is not yet convicted.
Click here for the video.