The Ethical Take

Published: January 10, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

Chris Christie’s staff problems; a pregnant woman in Texas is ordered to be kept alive despite pleas from her family; and former NBA star Dennis Rodman with his “friend.”

An Inconvenient Truth –

The public’s cynicism meter regarding politicians went into the red again with news of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s apology for his deputy chief of staff’s “stupidity” in ordering three of the four lanes on the George Washington Bridge shutdown as “political payback.”

I like Christie, believe he’s real in handling issues without pandering to “the base” or special interests. According to yesterday’s marathon press conference, Christie was sabotaged by key people in his administration into a political payback scheme that just made no sense. Christie apologized to the people of New Jersey saying that he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the actions of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly who, according to documents, ordered a political appointee to close three lanes on the George Washington Bridge resulting in four, long days of gridlock.

“I am heartbroken,” the New Jersey governor said, “that someone I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the past five years betrayed that trust.”

Humility – this is a side to Christie we’ve not heard or seen before. We’ve seen Christie the in-your-face, no-nonsense politician, beholden to no one, not even his own party, and Christie the charmer who knows how to offer sincere support to storm victims.

The New Jersey governor stepped forward yesterday to answer any and all questions to declare that he knew nothing of the scheme. However, along with the apology, what he did repeat in various forms was this self-reflective question: “What did I do wrong to make these people think it was okay to lie to me?”

That’s a question that will continue to haunt the New Jersey governor until he comes to grips with the fact that his sometimes, overly direct and swaggering style of governing has possibly influenced the people around to believe they can act with impunity, whether they have Christie’s blessing or not.

Historically, when it comes to ethics scandals, politicians are reactive rather than proactive, doing only what they must to maintain their reputation.

Now he’s apologized, and while we’re all waiting for additional facts to come to light, here’s what Christie can do for the long term: you can’t legislate morality, but you can require moral behavior from elected and appointed officials. Christie’s next steps would be to implement a strong ethics program requiring that he and his staff undergo ethics training. I would also recommend appointing an ethical ombudsman that staff members can call, anonymously if necessary, regarding any problematic issues or report questionable behavior.

The Ethical Take: “Humility,” British author C.S. Lewis said, “is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Brain-Dead is Death –

No sooner had reports begun to subside on the end-of-life issue with 13-year-old Jahi McMath – where the hospital declared the teen brain-dead and wanted to remove her from a ventilator that’s been keeping her alive, against the wishes of her family – than  a new report surfaces from Texas where a pregnant woman, also declared brain-dead, is being kept alive against the wishes of the family.

The New York Times reports (Jan. 7), that “Marlise Munoz was brain-dead after collapsing on her kitchen floor in November from what appeared to be a blood clot in her lungs.

“…as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.”

So now we have an example where, despite the declared wishes of a patient and her family, the state is declaring its right to override all other considerations to support the viability of an unborn child.

However, “Critics of the hospital’s actions also note that the fetus has not reached the point of viability outside the womb and that Ms. Munoz would have a constitutional right to an abortion.

“Mrs. Machado, mother of a brain-dead Munoz, “said the doctors had told her that they would make a decision about what to do with the fetus as it reached 22 to 24 weeks, and that they had discussed whether her daughter could carry the baby to full term to allow for a cesarean-section delivery. ‘That’s very frustrating for me, especially when we have no input in the decision-making process,’ Mr. Machado added. ‘They’re prolonging our agony.’

” ‘It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,’ said Mrs. Machado. ‘It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.’

” ‘The restrictive measures were largely adopted in the 1980s, with the spread of laws authorizing patients to make advance directives about end-of-life care like living wills and health care proxies,’ said Katherine A. Taylor, a lawyer and bioethicist at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The provisions to protect fetuses, she said, helped ease the qualms of the Roman Catholic Church and others about such directives.

” ‘These laws essentially deny women rights that are given others to direct their health care in advance and determine how they want to die,’ Ms. Taylor said. ‘The law can make a woman stay alive to gestate the fetus.’ ”

Texas is well-known, nationally, for their stand against government intrusion. Apparently, not in this case as they forcetheir will on the family of a brain-dead patient against the wishes of the family.

The E.T.: The ethical value of respect is fundamental. We should always recognize and honor each person’s right to autonomy, self-determination and dignity even if we don’t agree with that determination.

Rod Rage –

If former NBA star Dennis Rodman is preparing for a 2016 political run somebody needs to tell him this is not the way to do it.

In a live interview with CNN reporter Chris Cuomo, Rodmanwent into rage mode when Cuomo asked if the basketball star – on yet another North Korean pilgrimage – would be willing to speak to his “friend,” Kim Jung Un about Kenneth Bae, an American missionary held in a North Korean prison.

“Are you going to take an opportunity, if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and say, ‘Let us know why this man is being held?’ If you can help them, will you take the opportunity?” Cuomo asked.

“The one thing about politics,” Rodman began, “Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did? In thiscountry?”

“What did he do?” Cuomo said. “You tell me.”

“You tell me,” Rodman shouted. “You tell me! Why is he held captive?”

“They haven’t released any charges,” Cuomo said. “They haven’t released any reason.”

“I would love to speak on this,” Rodman said.

“Go ahead,” Cuomo urged.

Rodman lost it, after that.

In a carefully worded apology, Rodman said, “I embarrassed a lot of people. I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements,” adding that “I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened, I was upset.”

The E.T.: Dennis, you are waaay out of your league, and an obvious victim of self-deception.



Leave a Comment

Read More Articles
The Latest... And Sometimes Greatest