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Mengele on SI? Robert Sheridan bobsheridan It's not that I dislike medical practioners with any particular passion, but they do seem to do disproportional damage, compared to their supposed intelligence and their vaunted, but oft-disregarded motto, "First Do No Harm."

One of the alerts that made an impression was when I was representing a way-too-intelligent neurologist who had a major, obsessive, and compulsive, fetish involving chocolate, pie-making ingredients, and baby-sitters, who he persuaded were helping him rehearse a school reunion-skit.

I asked the psychiatrist and the psychologist I was consulting on this whether medical science hadn't come up yet with some method of curing this sort of thing. The psychologist laughed and started to give me a run-down on some of the weird things the medical profession has tried over the centuries to try to cure various things using all sorts of imaginative inventions that usually caused more harm than good.

Lawyers like to joke about the medical profession that while you guys were applying leeches we were writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the U.S.

It's a good line, but I agree, quite unfair, considering some of the stuff we do daily. Just try to change anything and see what you get.

The other nite there was a program featuring Barry Scheck and Peter Weinfeld's "Innocence Project." After overturning about 60 false cases of conviction and imprisonment, they made the point that in other fields, such as medicine and air crashes, mistakes are routinely post-mortemed to find out what went wrong, to prevent recurrences.

In criminal law, this is the last, last, last, thing anybody wants to see. Blame might attach!

The route to advancement, to a judgeship, or to the golden police badge, will be interrupted or prevented.

Bad politics outweighs the search for accuracy in separating the guilty from the innocent (No one is innocent; you got arrested, didn't ya?) every time. It is too easy to point to the moral impurity of the defendant to justify his having gotten into the soup in the first place.

Doctors did, and maybe still do, the same thing in writing up case report, according to a book I read years ago by a newly minted surgeon. After the inevitable deaths on the operating table, the post-mortem medical report usually went out of the way to highlight the patient's moral failings: obese, alcoholic, syphilitic, mentally deficient.

The subtext was that however egregious the surgeon's mistake, it was forgivable considering the lesser value of the patient's misbegotten life compared to the surgeon's future anticipated contributions, in the larger scheme of things.

Some day I'll tell you how I r e a l l y feel about some things I've seen in the medical profession, and the way the law more or less blindly subcontracts out validity issues to medical/science people, as though they had answers that meant something.

When you catch some of these birds off base, you really feel you've done something.


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