Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Ethics and the Workplace

Late last year, the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued an opinion paper titled "The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine". This is well worth the read- it addresses some of the core issues of the "conscientious refusal" movement that is so popular with wingnuts who happen to have a "Dr." in front of their names these days. Most pointedly, it asks the question- is it right for a doctor to impose their personal beliefs on a patient who may not share those beliefs?

Of course, the Bush administration couldn't resist being all buttinsky about the suggestion that doctors might have a greater moral obligation to put the well being of their patients before their supposed personal beliefs. HHS secretary Michael Levitt shot off a letter to the director of ACOG, stating in part:
I am concerned that the actions taken by ACOG and ABOG could result in the denial or revocation of Board certification of a physician who -- but for his or her refusal, for example, to refer a patient for an abortion -- would be certified.
In other words, the Secretary is concerned that a doctor who fails his or her duty to present all available options to their patient, and in the end do what is best for the PATIENT, might lose their license. These doctors, the Secretary is arguing, should be able to pick and choose what parts of their job they really want to do, and the big mean bossman shouldn't force them to do the other parts.

Let's step into the real world for a minute. Let's say my company entered into a contract to buy a chain of steakhouses. Naturally, as a vegan and generally ethical person, I have a strong moral objection to this, so I mention my objections to my supervisor, and ask that I be allowed to not participate in this transaction. He'll sit there patiently, hear me out, thank me for my input, and then wish me luck in finding a new job. Michael Levitt would not write him a letter begging him to reconsider, I'd bet.

The bottom line is, doctors (especially obstetricians and gynecologists) and pharmacists and their ilk shouldn't get a pass here. Their job is to operate in the public interest and in the interest of their patient, however personally distasteful they might find the patient's choice or the most logical treatment. If they don't find that the job suits their "conscience", they need to find another line of work.

And yet, Congress continues to prop up this notion that health care workers are somehow different from the rest of us when it comes down to doing our jobs. The Hyde-Weldon Amendment, inserted annually into a budget appropriations bill near you (gee, how'd that get in there?) codifies the following statement:

no federal, state, or local government agency or program that receives federal health and human services funds may discriminate against a health care provider because the provider refuses to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion.
Oh, Henry Hyde. How we miss you- always hiding your anti-woman agenda in giant bills completely unrelated to the subject at hand. It's like a little easter egg hunt!

Anyways, to wrap this lengthy rant up, the government should not be in the business of telling organizations what their ethics should be, and health care professionals should decide what's best for their patients based on communication and medical knowledge, not their fear of where they might end up in some mystical afterlife. It's that simple really. And if you agree, I encourage you to let your health care providers and government officials know how you feel at every given opportunity. You are paying for their Mercedes and third vacation homes, after all. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Deep Thoughts.

Not really deep thoughts, just some random stuff that I've been thinking about or seen lately.

Spring training tests a sportswriters' ability to wring a story out of nearly non-existent material. Sometimes, just sometimes, they're on to something. A couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did a profile on first baseman Prince Fielder, who has evidently become vegetarian, but not in a bid to gain power; he's doing it for ethical reasons! Good on him. I'll be curious to watch him through the season- Prince is a big boy (6', 260 lbs.), and the longer he stays veg, he might just become a little more lean. (bonus appearance in the article by former Red Sox third base coach Dale "Go! Go! No, wait, stop!" Sveum)

Manny Ramirez has always been hesitant with the media, and frankly I don't blame him. But, whether it's because he's in a contract year or he's just getting older, he's been a lot more open lately. There's a neat piece here about the changes he's made to his life and his off season preparations. Confession- I do get shivers thinking about a fully healthy Papi and a prepared Manny in the middle of the Sox order. :)

I would frankly give my left arm to be able to go see the Dropkick Murphys and Ted Leo show tomorrow in South Boston. Holy crap, would that be a to-do. Oh, sure, I'd settle for the motherf**king Pogues (with Shane!) and Billy Bragg in NYC on St. Patrick's Day eve. Ugh.

On a happier note, last night I went with friends to see a Harpcore4 show at U of I- great fun! Four harpists using their imposing instruments to pluck out very entertaining covers of everything from the Cure to Elton John to Leonard Cohen. I'm always impressed by harp players- their fingers are always flying so fast, in seemingly random ways, but making lovely sounds.

I have no earthly desire to even think about politics at this point. Wake me when the conventions are over.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Albums You Should Own: Erin McKeown- Sing, You Sinners

To continue our occasional series:

I first became aware of Erin McKeown when she opened a couple of Nields shows that I saw back in the day (Nields bass player Dave Chalfant has produced several of her albums); her guitar stylings, jaunty and jazzy, instantly drew me in. Her voice was not of the times- she's always sounded like she should be fronting a jazz combo, not trying to make her way in the rock-folk world.

Well, you can imagine my joy, then, when she released Sing You Sinners, an album of well known (and not so well known!) jazz standards. With herself on guitar (and banjo!), Todd Sickafoose on bass, Sam Kassirer on keyboards, and Allison Miller on drums, she creates the atmosphere of a tight combo playing their hearts out in a club for ten or fifteen people. Her voice is crisp and full as she takes old favorites like "Get Happy" and "Paper Moon" and owns them in such a way that you forget that anyone else has ever sung them. And as though to prove she's not just a pretty voice, her guitar work on "They Say it's Spring" is note perfect, but laden with emotion at the same time.

But my favorite part is the dancing- oh, the dancing! The middle of the album, with "I Was A Little Too Lonely (You Were A Little Too Late)", the title track, and "Rhode Island is Famous For You", is so peppy, that I defy you to not want to get up out of your chair and dance around the room. I actually bought this album for my mom because of this part of the album- she wanted something that would lift her spirits on the ride home from work. Mission accomplished! Although I did have to warn her about dancing and driving...

I recommend this album for fans of : smiling, dancing, having a good time, french cafes, nearly perfect sound mixes

Side story: I had just purchased this album, and was listening to it constantly on my commute, when my car was broken into and the stereo was stolen, with the CD in it. This almost made me sadder than losing the stereo. When I got an iPod a couple of months later, I repurchased the album on iTunes, so as to make it harder for someone to take away from me a second time. :)