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Health Nazis a bit more literal than usual - Input Junkie
November 18th, 2010
11:16 am


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Health Nazis a bit more literal than usual
Doctor Spared Jail Despite Road Death
The Herald, Wednesday 17.11.2010, page 9 News

A doctor who killed a morbidly obese woman on his way to a medical team bonding course has been fined his entire savings of £5000 and banned from driving for three years.

Dr. Benjamin Kendrick was fined by a sheriff, who ruled out community service because he was already serving the community through his work as a surgeon.

At Perth Sheriff Court, Sheriff Michael Fletcher also ruled out jailing Kendrick because his 29-stone victim could have survived the crash had she been of "average fitness."

Kendrick, of Chesham, admitted driving carelessly and killing Joan Johnston, of Scarborough, and injuring her husband and three of his colleagues as they drove on the A93 road on May 6 last year.

The orthopaedic surgeon - described as an "exceptional" talent - lost control of his rented people carrier and smashed into a vehicle, causing the death of Mrs. Johnston.

Sheriff Fletcher said "Your contribution to society in your everyday work is extensive. At the time of the accident you employed your medical skills to help the injured."

"If the person had been of average fitness they might have survived the injuries. A custodial sentence is not appropriate. The appropriate penalty is a sunstantial monetary penalty."

Link thanks to Big Fat Blog.

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(11 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
killed one woman, and injured three other people, and its ok because she was FAT???
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
This punitive concept of 'justice' will always get into absurd territory because it focuses overmuch on the outcomes of a 'criminal' incident rather than intentions. If it makes moral sense to punish people at all - which it doesn't, strictly speaking - then surely judgment should be centred on whether there was an intent to harm or a lack of intent to prevent harm?

If I neglect to wash a cup before serving a guest tea that is a minor oversight. If by freak chance there is botulism on the cup and the guest dies, should I 1) be prosecuted for causing death by botulism, 2) be forgiven seeing as my 'crime' was negligible or 3) some middle compromise? I suggest the least irrational option is obviously 2).

Therefore, whether or not the woman would have survived if slim should be immaterial: it does not alter the fact of the doctor's carelessness. Neither does his position in society: presumably a judge must think himself so valuable to society that he ought to get the occasional free pass as well, eh..?

The ridiculous truth is, we do things in this incoherent way because it is easier to measure outcomes than it is to retrospectively measure someone's intentions prior to the outcome.
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
There's another angle on this-- a lot of people are more vulnerable to dying from a car accident than average. Children, people with weak bones or heart conditions, etc. Should all categories be considered in such cases, or are some vulnerabilities to be considered more culpable than others?
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
But it's not children's fault that they can't survive car crashes, obvs. =/
Date:November 19th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
There's no right answer to that - how do I know whether someone has brittle bones? The whole point is that I wasn't watching the road in the first place. There's no way to square the circle - outcome-based retributive justice is inherently absurd. If you want to accept it for the sake of argument, what you can do is make an arbitrary game-like system with points for different vulnerabilities, completely divorced from real-world morality. You can then make the kinds of distinctions the judge made, and find reasons to say why killing a kid deserves a greater or lesser punishment, but it's all totally absurd; meaningless.

Justice is best judged by humans and not by rules, and even then given the best possible human judges, it will never be perfect. I think we build little oases of justice in a chaotic universe, just like we build encampments in the wilderness. When a bear eats someone, justice has nothing to do with it.
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
This actually makes a bit of sense, in that punishment should be based on how reprehensible the perpetrator's action was, and the driver's action wasn't more reprehensible simply because he was unlucky hit a person who dies more easily than usual.

But the logical conclusion of that is to have a single punishment for reckless driving, and apply it whether you are lucky and hit a very hardy person who doesn't get hurt, unlucky and hit a very unhealthy person who dies, or extremely lucky and don't hit anyone at all.

Assuming that was impossible because it allows police too much discretion as to what is or isn't reckless driving, then I guess the way it was done is okay.

Two more issues, though. One, okay, he's already serving the community as a surgeon. But he gets paid for that, so it shouldn't count! Two, how the heck do you practice as an "exceptional" orthopaedic surgeon and only have 5000 pounds savings?!
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
the house, car, leisure club prepaid membership probably weren't included in his assets, just cash in the bank account he couldn't hide. blah.
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
how the heck do you practice as an "exceptional" orthopaedic surgeon and only have 5000 pounds savings?!

Easily -- assuming he's young/newly qualified, he's just been through an extensive training period, and hasn't yet caught up on the earnings curve. Youth would also explain the driving too fast bit, too. Throw in a first mortgage and a new car and you can easily see why he might have sod-all savings.
Date:November 19th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
"Assuming that was impossible because it allows police too much discretion as to what is or isn't reckless driving, then I guess the way it was done is okay."

I wouldn't say it's okay; I'd say that there's no right answer. It is always an arbitrary thing to some extent.

I think it would help a lot if we all regarded criminal justice as the bureaucratic thing that it is instead of conflating it with morality. The law should be based on morality (as well as order, which is probably its main orientation) but we should not regard a prosecution as evidence of 'evil'. Judges should not moralise, denounce and lecture when passing sentence.

If someone was unlucky and got a harsh punishment for a moment's slip-up it would be easier to take it and think "shit happens" without their peers equating a criminal prosecution with being a moral paraiah. But in fact, I'm sure, much of the punishment is this shame element. And the court is just not omniscient enough to dictate who should feel shame. The court is a machine; only you and your mum know when you've genuinely been naughty.
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)

Words fail

...but an attempt...

...so Britain's a nanny state....unless you "misbehave" at which point, no one has an obligation of reasonable care toward you. Wow. And I thought Japan was bad about punishing its whipping boys....
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)

Re: Words fail

Britain is about as much of a nanny state as ... well, it isn't. (It just uses "nanny state" as an excuse for inaction when it's convenient.)
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