Inspection- Rewarding Royal Screw Ups

by Ken Carman

 A few months ago I walked into my doctor’s office looking to renew a few medications. When asked about how I was doing I told him I had an occasional, slight, tingling in my neck. Off to the neurologist who ordered an MRI.
 Despite having none but one of the symptoms they thought I should have, the MRI clearly showed, due to ongoing stenosis, my spine had collapsed in on the nerves. There was a blockage about an inch or so below the brain. According to the doctor who did the original diagnosis the situation was dire: fix it or there was a high probability I’d become like Christopher Reeves.
 More than a month after the procedure I have all the symptoms I didn’t have before and little use of my right arm. I’m told it will get better. I hope so. Had a steroid shot last week and motion hasn’t improved, pain went away briefly… then came back gangbusters: worse than it was before the shot, and obviously far, far worse than the pain I didn’t have before the operation.
  My right arm is crucial to my career, my life’s work. We are working on it. But this “adventure” did provide me with one of those Inspection inspiring mental flights that have me considering the way things are, or should be.
 At first I thought, “Why is it the medical field is the only one I know of where if you screw up you make even more money?” Yes, you might get sued, but that’s true in many other fields and really a separate issue. For those who do sue I’m sure there are thousands more who could have. And is this any way to run any “make good” system? Suing the doc who screws up seems the only way to “return” what wasn’t as promised, and a very bad method of doing that. Seems to me, no matter what the results, everyone loses except the lawyers. I might be richer, but the arm would still be close to useless, the doctor’s insurance company would be poorer and more doctors more hesitant to do their jobs.
 I understand: I can’t exactly return my arm to Target for a better one, but suing being the only recourse is a bad system for almost everyone, except those folks who have the same career as the guy who got eaten while hiding in an outhouse in Jurassic Park.
 Last year I took my Jeep to the dealer five times, three of those times I had to be towed, and all but one was covered: free, including the tows. Certainly not all car dealers, or mechanics, are that kind. But, generally, if it’s obvious to the customer, the adviser, the mechanic, that a screw up may have happened, it usually gets fixed for free. Or it could be fixed at a lower cost if blame is a bit murky. Many businesses, who may be bad in other ways, are even better than that, at least on the surface level. Buy something at WalMart and, usually, within a short period of time, you can return it with few questions asked.
 Yes, it may be for just another cheap, poorly made, Chinese replacement. Hence my “surface level” comment.
 But quickly I realized I was wrong. We should include politicians while I’m thinking about this…
 I remember JFK commenting once that the more they screwed up the more the public liked them. I’m not so sure that’s not an unusual situation when it comes to politicians. Closing in on 20 years ago we were told our former puppet, Saddam, was defective. Bringing in this “return” was beyond risky, even though we were told it would be easy. We were encouraged to bring to justice this “return,” then life would be so much better. Rivers would deliver ice cream sundaes of pure freedom on floating barges of solid gold-like freedom to the whole world… especially the Mideast. And those vast stockpiles of cancer-like WMD “cells” would be, oh, so easily found because we knew just where they were.
 Well, Saddam’s gone, but seems he was more like a very slow form of prostate cancer that, as white blood cells reacted, was preventing even worse, more aggressive, cancers from propagating. Now we have ISIS instead, al Qaeda before that and the whole body of the Mideast is a very busy emergency room, and the rest of the world headed that way. Now more aggressive, more dangerous, forms of “cancer” have found the world’s lymph node system and one 9/11 has geometrically exploded worldwide.
 It was bad before. It’s worse now. And like pols often discover, they gained a lot of support making it worse. Considering investments made before the war on terror that helped make those who made these decisions richer, and help many formerly flailing companies like Halliburton boom, where’s the disincentive here? Those who come next learn there’s plenty to incentivize them to make the same mistakes, or even worse “mistakes.”
 Could we ever get our money, and more important, all those lives, back? No, we didn’t even fire those who pushed such via the ballot box. In part the blame for that is a two party system that encourages politicians to make promises they know they might not even want to keep. We think we’re voting for change, but in many ways we really aren’t.
 There just seems to be some professions where screwing up means more profit, more power over others. And forcing those who screw up to make good is bloody hard, if not impossible. The system isn’t set up to make it possible. Even punishing those in higher positions is cumbersome: at best, often “never happen.”
 All of this being a hell-like pit we desperately need to escape from.

                                               -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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