Tuesday Questions, Apoplectic Hippocrates edition

[Editor’s note: As much as I like to keep my Tuesday Questions stupid, I’m having a hard time coming up with deliberately moronic questions to ask.  Thus I am transitioning to simple “Tuesday Questions,” where I ask you what you think about something.  I will try to make them intentionally stupid as often as possible, but the rest of the time you’ll have to settle for them being inadvertently so.]

I haven’t been following the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the Quackola BellGrande who was apparently pulling down $150,000 a month to take care of Michael Jackson. That is, until he killed him.  That said, I learned everything I need to know from the Times article about his “guilty” verdict to be 100% certain that he is guilty as all hell.

This man provided Propofol to his “patient” to help him sleep.  While I am no anesthesiologist, I have only ever seen this powerful sedative medication administered in operating rooms and ICUs.  Those are heavily monitored settings, and I can think of no legitimate home use for simple insomnia, no matter how bad.  Murray administered it without any monitoring equipment, and while keeping no records.  When the paramedics came to revive the man he had killed, Murray neglected to tell them Jackson had been given Propofol.  While they may not have been able to save them anyway, by withholding the information he doomed whatever efforts they made to failure.

Guilty, guilty, guilty.

So, here’s this week’s question — when have you known, by virtue of your professional expertise or depth of life experience, that something in the news was amiss, even without knowing all the details?  When have you known that someone was denied effective counsel, or that a bridge was built poorly, or that a ballyhooed technology was doomed to fail?  What tipped you off that may not have been obvious to most people?  (Most people probably have a good sense that Murray is guilty, but maybe don’t realize how incredibly inappropriate administration of that particular drug in that particular setting really was.)


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Gah! I am usually sooooo good at remembering when I am right about something or I know more about something that I can tell people all about. And there’s an example on the tip of my tongue (I remember tweeting it), but I can’t quite bring it up.

    When I was working help desk, I was told a lot of “this is how it happened” cases that I knew off the bat were wrong and that they had done something else to cause the problem, but I know this is not exactly what you mean.

    A sorta example I can name, though can’t recall all the details of. I was taking an environmental and occupational safety class in fall of 2001, and a number of the decisions made by the office (I think specifically asking them to return to their stations after the first tower fell) struck me as immediately contrary to what I had been taught and that my professor would have a word or two to say about that when we got back. Oh, boy, did he.

    There are also, of course, countless examples on television where it’s apparent that the writers of the TV show know nothing about how computers and networks work. But, as a doctor, I am sure it’s something you run across a lot more frequently. My father watched Star Wars with a bunch of NASA engineers. Big mistake. “There’s no sound in space! There’s NO SOUND in space!”

  2. 1. Let me start by saying this: I believe Sarah Palin is the mother of Trig Palin. But as a mom who has been around the pregnancy block a few times, and a special needs mom at that, I knew there was no way Sarah Palin felt her water break in Texas with her fifth child – one with special needs – and labor start 4 weeks prematurely, then took two airplanes home to Alaska. Moreover, according to her story, she went past several hospitals that had neonatal ICUs in order to deliver a premature baby that very possibly had heart defects in a hospital without a NICU. If her story is true, she gravely risked the life of her baby, and to a lesser extent, herself (airborne midwife-less, OB-less births of a premature baby with possible heart defects not being among the safest ways to give birth). And any woman who has been pregnant would know what a risk that is. Any woman who had known for 4 months that her baby had Down Syndrome would know that heart defects are possible. Occam’s razor: she lied to make up an exciting story that showed how rah-rah Alaska she is.

    2. Wearing my philosopher hat, a personal bugaboo is when politicians (Mitt Romney did this during his religion speech, if remember correctly) claim that without God, there can be no morality. Euthyphro dilemma! Even for a believer, there is a much bigger philosophical bullet to bite in claiming God as the determiner of morality, than to claim that moral good exists independently of God. (Not that you can’t bite it, but it is simply a more difficult and much less popular position among *theists*.)

    3. Every time I teach a class when a debate is aired, I ask my students to detect a logical fallacy for extra credit. They always come up with them.

    4. Obama replied to a question on abortion by claiming that determining when personhood begins is above his pay grade. Sadly, as a job left to philosophers, let me assure you it is well below his pay grade. And while we’re on that topic….

    5. Contra Mississippi, there is no moment of development, including conception, that is not SERIOUSLY problematic for determining when personhood begins. (and contra pro-choicers – viability ain’t so hot either. And if you think it is sentience and you’re not a vegetarian, you’ve got some more thinking to do!)

  3. O.J. Simpson trial. The first one.

    Prosecution announces it is not going to introduce evidence of O.J.’s slow-speed flight from justice immediately after the crime took place.

    I think to myself, “Why would they exclude that? It sounds like evidence of the defendant’s own consciousness of guilt. This ain’t right at all.”

    • I wonder if it was some sort of procedural thing: the prosecution would have to argue over objections by the defense as to its admissibility, when the jurors probably already knew of OJ’s flight?

      I’m not a lawyer, but was just wondering….

  4. There’s a book that came out recently that has TOM CLANCY in 80-point type all over the cover, with “and Bill van Schmuckenhouse” in print I could barely make out. As a long-time science fiction reader, I know exactly who wrote that book.

    • Baen does this A LOT. I think that, at this point, at least fifty percent of the books with John Ringo’s name on the cover do not contain any actual writing by John Ringo.

      • They’re largely written by George Paul.

        By the way, have you seen the new Walter Jon Williams collection? A lot of first-rate stories.

  5. Whoever is in charge of information technology for the state of California should be fired. And then blackballed.

    And then everybody who works for that guy or gal ought to be fired. They also should be blackballed.

    And then everybody who works for anyone under those people should be pulled into a gigantic meeting room and told, no-nonsense, that they have 90 days to prove that they know what the hell they are doing.

    Exhibit A: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/09/local/la-me-0209-courts-audit-20110209

    Exhibit B: http://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/guides/smartit2?chapter=3

    Exhibit C: http://calpensions.com/2011/01/18/calpers-computer-system-over-budget-late/

    I can keep going, there are dozens of other examples.

    This is one example of both top-down and bottom-up approaches failing miserably, actually. All of these things are broken because there is no common framework, and the design process is horribly horrid.

    • Ooooh, I’m envisioning another NFL channel, like RedZone. Certainly the NFL realizes that if people will fork out cash for RedZone, they’d pay for an “All22” channel, too?

      • I like the article’s reasoning that the NFL will never let that footage get out because then people would be able to describe exactly how terrible the play-calling was without having to spend thousands of dollars on season tickets.

  6. This was actually a post this week: from my working with organizations regarding sexual harassment, knowing last weekend that there would be more Herman Cain cases that would surface over time.

    • Not sure, I may have misheard, but I believe he said today, “There may be more of these allegations” and something to the effect of “they’re all untrue”.

      The “there may be more of these allegations” part made me laugh. Seriously, who is this guy’s crisis manager?

  7. Having been associated with law enforcement for a great many years, I can state that most things reported by the media concerning LE operations is either riddled with errors or is patently false.

    • At this point, I chalk it up as a win (and often get a little thrill, which tells you how rare it is) when a procedural/cop/FBI show has LE folks on a brand-new crime scene and they DON’T pick anything up or touch it before the crime techs can photograph, bag, tag, etc etc it …

      The latest show to manage to pass this low threshhold has been, believe it or not, Grimm. Sure, there are all kinds of fairytale secret-history monsters, but the cops in it actually (mostly) avoid contaminating their own crime scenes! Hallelujah.

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