Blind Judgment?

My wife told me about a couple of different news stories and a personal experience of hers at one of our local supermarkets recently that all seemed linked, in my opinion. Pagination alert! Look for page numbers below the “Related” posts section.

One of the news stories was a CNN article about a blind man and his service dog, Doxy (short for Doxology) who were both ejected from a plane–along with all of the other passengers who took issue with the flight attendant about where Doxy should be placed. The flight attendant was sticking to the letter of the law regarding airplane safety. She stuck to her guns and paid for it by being judged harshly by every  passenger on the plane. The flight attendant probably relied on the pilot and the flight crew to back her decision, with the result that the flight was cancelled and passengers had to be bussed to another airport. Should we ask ourselves: Did common sense take a hit that day?

The second news story was published in the November 15, 2013 online version of The Iowa Press Citizen and concerned the harrowing experience of the then Dallas, Texas Parkland Memorial Hospital coroner, Earl Rose, who was involved in the immediate aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963 [1,2]. Dr. Rose stuck to the letter of the law about the jurisdiction Texas had regarding doing the autopsy at that time. He actually blocked the exit when presidential aides attempted to wheel the casket containing Kennedy’s body out in order to return it to Washington where the autopsy would be performed at Bethesda Naval Medical Center–an autopsy later to proved to be flawed as concluded by a commission ironically including Rose. On the day of the assassination, Rose asked the local judge to make a judgment about where the body should go, which the judge declined to do. Rose stuck to his guns and paid the price for it by being vilified–for a substantial part his career, eventually moving to Iowa City to practice in our Pathology Department. Some probably wondered whether or not he used common sense on that terrible day in Dallas.


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  1. If you read my blog it is not surprising that I would see these decisions as being equivalent to managed care (MCO) and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) decisions when physicians are arbitrarily overruled by financial decisions. The only difference is that we don’t have another 30 people to back us up.

    The lack of common sense is readily apparent when the will of a corporation or government needs to be carried out by somebody and it makes no sense. Many of these decisions are so arbitrary they lack common sense out of the box. MOC/MOL are good examples. Another model might be Levitt and Dubner’s discussion of conventional wisdom as an anchoring bias. When most people are in a situation where their employer specifies an arbitrary response they will display that response because they realize their job is at stake. In that regard the pilot’s response to the crisis is consistent with the actions of the flight attendant but nobody seems to be complaining about them.

    I have been in similar situations where I knew my employer or the policy was wrong, but I would be in trouble if I made a decision on my own. The best solution I have worked out is to get your boss on the line and point out the problem. Amazing things can happen in that situation that a front line employee could never get away with. Your boss can generally ignore the policy and suffer no repercussions.


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