The criminalization of society continues.
Regular readers know that I strongly disagree with state efforts to criminalize the practice of medicine. See previous posts here, here, and here for a few. Two days ago I posted an article about a doctor who was criminally charged with providing excessive pain medications to patients who died (as I expressed concern about back in 2009). Now federal agents are arresting physicians for providing fraudulent or “unnecessary” care.
This isn’t concerning to anyone?
I have no problem with taking professional action against any medical practitioner who is a danger to the public. Well, I have a little problem. Some of the assertions of “dangerous” activities I have seen made by state licensing boards make me wonder whether the board members should be charged with a crime for incompetency. In one instance, a board was prepared to file a letter of reprimand against a physician because he didn’t order a CT scan on a patient with a headache. The reason? “This patient came to the hospital by AMBULANCE and you didn’t do enough.” Action taken against license because a patient dialed 911.
I also don’t have a problem filing criminal charges against medical practitioners that break laws. Intentionally engage in fraud? You deserve what’s coming to you. Steal from patients? Go to jail.
However, throwing someone in jail for doing their job – even if they do their jobs poorly – just sends the wrong message and will lead to unintended consequences.
I’m not going to go on a long rant about this, but I wanted to illustrate how more and more professions are coming under a government attack because they allegedly don’t do their jobs appropriately.
Tarl commented about the case of the Italian scientists who were charged with manslaughter and sentenced to six years in jail because they failed to predict an earthquake that killed more than 300 Italian citizens. Prosecutors argued that the scientists offered “incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information” to the Italian citizens. As Tarl noted, scientists from around the world denounced the trial, noting that predicting earthquakes is impossible.
Think about the implications for Italian scientists in the future. Doing everything in their power to avoid a six year prison term in the future, the seismologists will now be encouraged to report to the media that an earthquake may occur and that things may not be safe every time that a truck without a muffler drives past the seismologists’ offices and shakes their equipment. Chicken Little, baby. If someone drops a cup of coffee, the sky must be falling. Run for the hills. In a few years, the population will be so sick of the false alarms that when the real earthquake does hit, they will have ignored the warning anyway.
But by criminalizing an inexact science, the buffoon Italian prosecutors have made Italy a safer place, right?
Then consider the case of attorneys for GlaxoSmithKline who were indicted for making false statements to the FDA when Glaxo was being investigated for promoting Wellbutrin for an off-label use. The in-house counsel hired a national law firm to help Glaxo respond to the FDA’s allegations. A year later, the government came after the attorney for obstruction of justice … for representing her client … alleging that the attorney had assisted Glaxo in furthering a cover-up or a crime. Even documents that are protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege were forced to be turned over to the government.
How will the threat of criminal charges affect an attorney’s practice of criminal law? Go to jail if you defend your client too zealously? Be concerned about this, people. With the threat of criminal charges looming over attorneys who defend criminal clients, will clients really get the zealous representation to which they are entitled?
Finally, although not about employment, there is this Wall Street Journal story about how the North Carolina legislature has now made it a Class 2 misdemeanor (.pdf file) for a student to, “with the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee,” do such things as encourage others to post private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to the school employee; post an image of the school employee on the internet; repeatedly engage in e-mail or other transmissions to the school employee; or sign the school employee up for electronic mailing lists.
Take a picture of the teacher in public who is fondling a sixth-grader’s breasts? Even though the teacher is breaking the law and has no expectation of privacy, students may go to jail if they post the picture online or if they encourage others to do so. If the paparazzi hounds the same teacher for doing the same thing … that’s OK … I think.
Anyone every wonder why criminalization isn’t applied to the government officials when they allegedly don’t do their jobs appropriately? I was going to write someone in the North Carolina legislature an e-mail asking them about it, but I didn’t want to be breaking some other inane law they created.
What is happening to this country?