Anne Notations

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Seven times seventy-seven

Conversation among Michael, Kevin, and me while we watched the Notre Dame game on TV yesterday afternoon:

Me: Wow, what happened to Charlie [Weiss, the Notre Dame coach]? Did he get really fat? He looks old and sick.

Michael: He was really sick. He had one of those stomach reductions and something went wrong. He sued the surgeons.

My Google research just now reveals that Weiss, then offensive coordinator for the Patriots, had gastric bypass surgery in 2002, followed by internal bleeding and a coma; he even received Last Rites.

Kevin: Why did he do that?

Michael: Because they were negligent, they did him harm.

Kevin: He shouldn't sue them for that.

Me: What? Why not? He suffered because someone made a mistake in the hospital.

Kevin (appalled): So what? They didn't do it on purpose. It was a mistake!

Michael: The surgeons aren't supposed to make that kind of mistake. They're trained and certified so that they won't harm the patient.

Me: It's a matter of trust. You trust that a professional surgeon won't mess up, just like you trust that a professional mechanic won't cause your car to break down.

Kevin: Well, I wouldn't sue them unless they hurt me on purpose.

Michael: It doesn't matter whether they did it intentionally or not. They are still liable for the patient's suffering and loss of health.

Me: Kevin, are you saying Coach Weiss should have just said, "Oh, well, I know they didn't mean it." ?

Kevin: Yes! He should forgive them.

Me: So if it had been you that went into a coma, you would just say "I forgive you" and leave it at that? Why?

Kevin: I would. It's the Christian thing to do. It's what Jesus says to do.

Me (thinking of something that would break my son's heart and make him seek vengeance): What if a weird guy moved in down the road from us and decided he hated Daisy [our dog]. What if he put out poisoned meat so that she'd eat it, and then she died. Wouldn't you be upset that he had done that?

Kevin: Well, duh.

Me: And you would be able to forgive that man for what he did to Daisy?

Kevin: (silence)

Kevin: Yes. It would take a while, but I would.

This is coming from our son who was spitfire-angry a good part of the time as a preschooler and a young adolescent.

Me: Kevin, I can remember you saying things like "I want to kill him! He should be shot!" when you heard about someone being cruel to an animal. Why wouldn't you want to punish the person who hurt your dog?

Kevin: I was younger then. I've changed.

Yes, he has. What an interesting young man he is turning out to be.


  • Wow. There are very few people with values just like your son. That only means you have raised him well. Too bad what happened after Weiss' gastric bypass surgery though. It is just a fact that any surgery may really go bad whether we like it or not. So, it's just a matter of accepting the consequences in case something wrong will happen after the surgery.

    By Anonymous MedPathGroup, at Mon Sep 08, 03:19:00 AM EDT  

  • Well, there is such a thing as corrective justice, and God is just. Too many mistakes could be from negligence, and I don't believe that forgiveness and letting negligent doctors slide by is the answer to what could be (or become) more rampant negligence, when doctors either become habituated to a lower depth of carelessness and/or know they can get away with it. My grandmother died from undetected gangrene; it was negligence on the part of several doctors that they didn't examine her for a source of all of her vomiting. In their minds she was "old anyway". I believe my family would have been well within their rights (and responsibilities) to sue; it could have brought *some* sort of justice while it reminded doctors to be attentive, even to the elderly, and not just when they don't have a golf game to go to in the afternoon. Have I forgiven the doctors? Sure. But I would have been 100% behind corrective action as well; it serves a function. Nobody sued though, but I think it was only because the grief was too much to handle on its own.

    As to blanket forgiveness, notice how God forgives those who *repent* (and those who know not what they do). As to those who do not repent, God does not force his forgiveness upon them; he respects their choice out of love. I see too many dysfunctional situations because a person simply cannot put their foot down and protect themselves and other loved ones (as per their higher Christian duty) from unrepentant, intractable jerks. Contrary to today's popular sentimentality-based scriptural exegesis, we are actually not called to be doormats or victims of habitual carelessness; wherever this is happening, we should be thankful for opportunities for corrective action, for justice. We are called to forgive when appropriate, but we are also called to correct--it is even considered a spiritual act of mercy. We are called to carry our cross, but also to wipe the dust from our feet. It's a matter of discernment worth investigating in order to mature as a Christian. It is a mistake to throw out justice in favor of an oversimplified message of forgiveness that has become all too common in the watered down, post-sixties Catholicism which doesn't really probe the depths of morality at an adult's intellectual level. Justice and forgiveness are not antonymous; they are both attributes of God. For yet more evidence of this, note the notion of the need to make reparation even after God forgives us. We still incur "temporal punishment" for our mistakes; if not here on Earth then later in Purgatory. We're meant to make things right, and to give our brothers and sisters that opportunity as well.

    By Blogger Karen, at Mon Sep 08, 09:03:00 AM EDT  

  • Really good article by one of my favorite apologists on forgiveness:


    By Blogger Karen, at Mon Sep 08, 10:07:00 AM EDT  

  • Growth and change is an unbelievable thing to experience and to witness.

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Mon Sep 08, 07:21:00 PM EDT  

  • ...yeah, but sometimes people need to be stopped. Especially if what they're doing is causing death or coming close to it.

    (Also lost someone to *horrific* medical negligence, and I don't think I'll ever be as cool as your son about it. It'd be a nice world if more people were really able to feel the way he does, though.)

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Wed Sep 10, 02:32:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home