Saturday, July 15, 2006

Moral Crises in the Professional Sector

The Washington Post is running a good intro piece on one of the critical issues of our day: to what extent does a professionals' personal beliefs control the provision of services?

The issues listed in the article fall along the usual fault lines: abortion, birth control, euthanasia, artificial insemination. The list goes on and on. One fellow, John C. Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, said all the issues are "collision[s] between a religiously inspired view of life and state regulation." Now, that seems like an interesting comment. Yes, on one side is a "religiously inspried view of life," I agree, but government regulation on the other? Seems to me the request of a gay women to be artificially inseminated or a women's request for birth control are anything but government regulation... that's just people being people, no government needed.

What I don't understand is how these professionals like doctors, pharmacists, whatever, can get away with behavior that no lawyer can get away with? As a lawyer (okay, soon to be lawyer) I know that when I hold myself at as a licensed lawyer it comes with certain obligations. One of those obligations is that once I take a client I am bound to that client with all of his various eccentricities. Client wants to do something I would never consider, like suing little kids for tresspass, then you file the suit.

If you don't like the behavior you can object, sure, but you can only withdraw if doing so will not materially impact the client's legal position. If you're in the middle of a case and suddenly the client wants to do something really crazy, so long as it's not illegal, you have to do it. And you have to do it because, one, you held yourself out to the public as a professional, two, you were hired to do a job as a professional.

So, let's apply that standard to other professions. Sure, a pharmacist who objects to giving birth control can refuse to do so, since it should be reasonably easy to find another provider before the client is materially injured. (cf town with one pharmacists. Same problem for lawyers though, wonder how conflicts are handled?) But, if a rape victim shows up and asks for the morning-after pill, you had better damn well provide that pill. You hold yourself out as a professional, you are obligated to provide the service. If you aren't gonna do it, then you need to find another business.

This isn't car repair people. Professionals go through a lot of schooling, are licensed by the state, and owe special obligations to the population in return for the right to practice. It's time we start taking those obligations seriously and remember our place in society... helping others.

Friday, July 07, 2006

CNN Commentary on Wikipedia

Following the recent death of Kenneth Lay and the resulting media coverage, CNN ran a story about the unreliability of Wikipedia. Read all about how the Kenneth Lay entry changed multiple times over the couple hour period following the announcement.

Now, I thought it would be interesting to do a similar side-by-side analysis of the 2004 Encyclopedia Britanica. Here's the "by the minute" updates to Kenneth Lay's entry regarding his cause of death on July 5.
  • At 10:06 a.m. it said nothing.
  • At 10:08 a.m. it said nothing.
  • Within the same minute, it said nothing.
  • At 10:09 a.m. it said nothing.
  • Two minutes later, still nothing.
  • At 10:12 a.m. it said nothing.
  • By 10:39 a.m. surprisingly, nothing.
  • By early Wednesday afternoon, a full day earlier, the pages had still not miraculously generated the relevant information.
Which leads me to remark that while Wikipedia may not be the most accurate source of information mere minutes after news breaks, given a few days it's a heck of a lot more accurate than the encyclopedia book set you have sitting on your shelf or that encyclopedia DVD you bought in 2001 for Windows ME.

Update - 07/09/2006

The Washington Post chips in on this riveting piece of news in an article entitled Death by Wikipedia: The Kenneth Lay Chronicles. Journalism at it's best folks. My favorite quote, hands down, "That Wikipedia's greatest strength is its greatest weakness." Qua?! It got the story right in 24 hours folks... for those wishing an status report, my Encyclopedia Britannica is still silent on the subject.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

This 4th of July

I don't have a lot to say about today, other than I've changed the Quote of the Moment and to share with you some inspiring words by E. J. Dionne published in today's Washington Post.
The Fourth of July is, of course, a celebration of national unity and of shared love of country. But it need not bother us that there has always been a struggle over the day's meaning. This is part of a larger argument over how to interpret our national tradition, an ongoing quarrel that I suspect the revolutionaries of '76 would understand.

Those who reject the idea of national perfection, who insist that the Founders laid out a pathway and not a destination, should thus resist defensiveness.
Read the entire editorial.