Patterico's Pontifications

3/21/2008

Must-Read of the Day

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:01 am



An ER doctor writes about operating on a 12-year-old victim of a gunshot wound:

I just finished sewing up a dead boy.

I pronounced him dead at 10:34 p.m. Sunday. It’s now 11:27 p.m. I know I won’t be able to get to sleep for a long time. I feel like I shouldn’t.

. . . .

The boy’s family is brought in while I am bathed in his blood, as “studies have shown” that this is better for everyone involved, to be present as the end nears. I scramble for a way to just stop the bleeding. I just want it to stop. It’s spilling over my hands on to the gurney. His mother is begging me to do what I can. I know I can’t do anything. She tells me to take her heart, and give it to him. I know that’s not possible, and she knows that’s not possible, but she could not be more serious. The first ER doc is sitting alongside the mom, gently telling her that we’ve done everything we can do. His mother looks at me. My hands are still in the boy’s chest, trying to do something, anything. In her eyes, I see a soul that I am about to crush with a little nod of my head. I do so.

The piece is slightly marred a couple of brief and wholly unnecessary asides about gun control and the war. A good editor would have removed them; I recommend you simply ignore them. The rest of the piece is moving and jarring and powerful.

Read it all.

34 Responses to “Must-Read of the Day”

  1. The piece is slightly marred a couple of brief and wholly unnecessary asides about gun control and the war. A good editor would have removed them; I recommend you simply ignore them.

    The author brought up those things for a reason, and you’re advising us to ignore them? How is gun control and the war ‘wholly unnecessary’ to a story about a kid that got shot? All these issues are related, absolutely. It’s like two whole sentences anyways, what’s the big deal? You’re just so against liberal ideas that even in a piece that you admit to enjoying, you have to pretend like they don’t exist?

    Levi (76ef55)

  2. Levi

    Its an emotional piece – the two sentences are powerful and dramatic but in the context of the anguish I do not see it as an liberal postion call but the first thoughts that enter in one’s mind as a crisis unfolds.

    Its a great piece – with or without it

    EricPWJohnson (d2733c)

  3. Yeah, I agree. He’s obviously not staking out any positions or making any arguments, just reacting to tragedy. There’s nothing ‘wholly unnecessary’ about
    it, it’s a key part of how the author feels.

    I just think it’s bizarre that someone would link to a good, solid article, but then stress the fact that we need to ignore the microscopic amount of frustrated liberalism therein contained, that amounts to a total of maybe two sentences?

    Levi (76ef55)

  4. I found the sentences jarring myself. For me, the two sentences changed the whole story from a powerful, emotional tale of the toll that innocents are paying to crime in the inner city to a political diatribe.

    gahrie (56a0a8)

  5. Why do we still sell guns in this country? What is this child doing on the streets after 10 o’clock at night? Why are we killing our innocent young soldiers overseas, and ignoring the merciless gangbangers – terrorists in their own right – that are invading our streets here at home?

    There, much better now.

    But on a related matter, stories like this need to get at least as much coverage as the latest car bombing in Baghdad. This is a local (California) issue unrelated to GWB’s popularity in the Middle East.

    Why is gang violence tolerated? Is there no political will to do more than appease them and throw money at them?

    capitano (03e5ec)

  6. Hmmm. Well it worked in the Live Preview.

    Strike Out the first sentence and “killing our innocent young soldiers overseas, and…

    Maybe it is the new Firefox 3beta4 (quoted section is also italicized, let’s see if it works).

    capitano (03e5ec)

  7. I can’t imagine a hell worse than a parent seeing his child dying in agony and fear and not being able to do anything about it.

    nk (34c5da)

  8. I’m of two minds on the dumb comments on gun control and the war. On the one hand, both statements are stupid, knee-jerk non sequiturs that add nothing of value of the public debate. On the other, the piece reads as a thought process of a trauma surgeon, not a diatribe on political tangents. If that really was his thought process at the time, and that’s what the article was generally about, I’m not sure his two dumb thoughts ought to have been edited out.

    Xrlq (b71926)

  9. Gun Control has not one whit of effect on the violence that this ER Doc is dealing with.
    Conversly, his ER Trauma work is developing skill sets sorely needed by the DoD for dealing with combat casualties.
    And, why was this small child allowed out on the streets at such a late hour?
    And, why do our pols tolerate this epidemic of urban terrorism within our midst?
    Will it take a massacre involving their privileged asses to change the situation “on the ground”?
    “Gun Control is hitting your target!”

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  10. The reason we tolerate the gang violence in this country is very simple. The alternative, permanentyl locking up a not small percentage of minorities, is monstrous.

    minturn (2a8465)

  11. No, it’s called protecting society from the criminal elements within our midst. That is the function of the Criminal Justice System!

    A tenent of civilization is that those who cannot live within the constraints that civilized people impose upon themselves, have forfeited the right to live within that society.

    If we do not enforce those constraints and penalties, we have anarchy, not civilization.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  12. A moving piece, jarred by his political thoughts, but life is like that, you think of many things, especially when the stress drops. He probably really believes that better “gun control law” would have saved his patient (whereas I think that better gun control, which would include not hitting unintended persons, would.)

    htom (412a17)

  13. i respectfully dissent from the plaudits conferred on this article. the death of a child is always tragic, whether it’s a gunshot, an auto wreck or falling out of a tree. the patient had no pulse or vital signs upon arrival at the emergency room, once the chest was opened to reveal two holes in the heart, he was plainly and manifestly dead, dead as in “pining for the fjords”, muy, muy muerto. this would naturally cause a moment of profound regret in any caring person, from surgeon down to blogreader, but i expect more from a trained, experienced professional than this chaotic, unfocused emotional tsunami, unmoored to reason and sweeping down on unrelated, noncausative premises such as the second amendment and the war in iraq. i support the second amendment and oppose the war in iraq; there are many sound reasons for opposing the war, but i guess that i’m insufficiently imaginative to bring gangbanging in long beach into the powerpoint. shame on this doctor for exploiting a dead child to make political hay.

    assistant devil's advocate (eddd52)

  14. ada…
    His condemnation of the 2nd, and the War, are themes that run through the trauma-surgeon community, and are understandable just for that reason. Understandable, but not excusable. It is amazing sometimes how ignorant the highly educated can be. We have to guard against allowing our lives to be so narrowly focused that we lose sight of other aspects of it.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  15. While not so critical of “…chaotic, unfocused emotional tsunami, unmoored to reason…” that the Doctor experienced, the sentences in the piece seem to sully the main intent- to express frustration and sadness about the situation.

    paul from fl (12026e)

  16. 1) Last time I checked, shooting children was generally illegal. Making it illegal again doesn’t do very much, other than offering an alternative sentencing arrangement.

    2) As an editor, I would have made at least a lot of noise about removing that aside, because it pulls you out of the rest of the piece – whether you agree with the statement or not – and makes it about something it isn’t really about. As we’re seeing here.

    3) Mintern – are you saying that gang violence is a permanent part of minority behavior, either because of status or genetics? ‘Cause it sure sounds like that’s what you’re saying, which is, of course, monstrous.

    Gang violence is a combination of simple criminal behavior and localized cultural forces that excuse that behavior. Beating the latter would go a long way toward combating the former, though I admit efforts in that direction so far have been more bluster than anything else.

    If abandoning inner cities to gang control is the lesser of two evils, you’ve messed up your math somehow.

    Merovign (4744a2)

  17. A contractor, combat medic, in Afghanistan left us this post the other day, part of his life there, I’ll give you a link (read-only, unless you subscribe to ArsTechnica). DiePilot is his handle from his time in the Marines and army reserve, referring to his prowess with anti-aircraft weaponry. There are updates from him down the thread.

    So, Let Me Tell You About a Bad Day

    htom (412a17)

  18. This article is not about the doctor, not his feelings and not his political beliefs, even if the doctor himself thought it was. It is about a dead child and his mother who watched him die.

    nk (34c5da)

  19. Drew – specialists are often ignorant of the world outside their specialty – hard focus is what makes them good at what they do and bad at other things.

    Obsession may be unhealthy, but if you want to excel, it’s mandatory.

    That also means that for the same reason I don’t go to an Academy-Award-winning actor for testimony on criminology or epidemiology, I don’t go to doctors for testimony on criminology or acting.

    We definitely have a targeting problem in this country when it comes to “experts.”

    Merovign (4744a2)

  20. The gun control and war sentences are part of the story, even if they’re wrong:

    As the howl of unimaginable grief shakes the entire ER, I am filled with anger. Why do we still sell guns in this country? What is this child doing on the streets after 10 o’clock at night? Why are we killing our innocent young soldiers overseas, and ignoring the merciless gangbangers – terrorists in their own right – that are invading ourstreets here at home?

    The doctor was expressing his rage, but it contains a kernel of the truth. Forget that gun control doesn’t stop criminals from getting guns; just what was that boy doing out on the streets after 10:00 at night? And why are we ignoring the merciless gangbangers who are invading — and occupying — our streets here at home?

    Mr Frey, you are a prosecutor, and you can answer that last question better than anyone else: why don’t we pick up these gangbangers and put them in jail, on the least pretext, get them out of society before they get to the point of murder?

    Dana (3e4784)

  21. Everyone sees life through their own particular lens. Many police officers think most people are dangerous and bad because that’s what they see everyday. Similarly, trauma surgeons hate guns because they see so much destruction caused by guns.

    However, trauma surgeons rarely see people who use guns responsibly to protect themselves, their families and society — but those people exist, too. That’s why we have a democracy so there is input from everyone. I’m glad this trauma surgeon offered his perspective on death and guns, but it’s not the only perspective that matters.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  22. why don’t we pick up these gangbangers and put them in jail, on the least pretext, get them out of society before they get to the point of murder?

    And because the juvie halls are full, probation officers and police officers are told “don’t bring in any more minors, even gangbangers”

    Darleen (7aa593)

  23. the above a frustration expressed by several agencies attending the monthly area gang meeting held in my jurisdiction yesterday

    add to that William Bratton’s large river of denial about the 18th Street gang’s motivations in murdering Jamiel Shaw.

    Darleen (7aa593)

  24. Editors across the country leave out guns when it suits them. I can’t find the story right now but a teacher armed himself and stopped a school shooter. The AP reported that he tackled the shooter. So it is OK to take the gun out when it the story might support the 2nd Amendment, but we leave it in when it serves the greater liberal good?

    tyree (d9bd6c)

  25. Since everyone wants to go there. There is a solution. Every block becomes a gated community. With only one entrance and one exit guarded by sworn officers or armed auxiliary police (citizen volunteers) at all times. If they can’t circulate, they can’t propagate (violence or anything else). Every apartment building with even one tenant that sells drugs, or in which a crime of violence occurs, becomes a public nuisance subject to demolition. Police officers are assured that even if the arrest doesn’t hold up in court, they won’t be subject to discipline and they will be defended and indemnified against a lawsuit for picking up gang members, taking away their guns, cars and drugs, and locking them up overnight, on suspicion.

    nk (34c5da)

  26. nk…
    “citizen volunteers”, wouldn’t that be the militia? And, the rest of it sounds somewhat how the Israelis handle the problem of terrorists within Israel, and the occupied areas (not that I think it’s bad)?

    Merovign…
    I acknowledge that specialization may lead to isolation. It is a fault that we, within ourselves, have to guard against. I can’t fully agree that to be the best in your field, you have to shut yourself off from everything else. But, if I had my way about this, the divorce lawyers would have diminished practices as spouses stopped isolating themselves from each other, and their families and communities.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  27. No, auxiliary police have been around a long time and they’re tied in to a local police department and not the State militia. In Chicago they are armed security guards including the Aviation Department Police for the airports. In my village they are called upon to assist during special events. They have the same uniform as the sworn police but different badges.

    In the Capone days, they were gangsters with political connections who wanted a gun permit.

    nk (34c5da)

  28. DRJ – excellent point about people viewing the world through their own lens. I think the ER doc’s outburst provides a pretty big pointer as to why these things occur (senseless gang violence), and that’s that people tend to take action only when they’re emotionally motivated. It took the death of the child to bring about the call to action. The Doc even admits early in the post that he was not thinking about these issues before he got the call. Gun rights, wars and pestilence aside, this is a gang problem, and only a gang problem. Many of the homeowners in that neighborhood own weapons – they just don’t shoot children with them. The gang problem existed before that Doc entered that ER.

    Simply locking up gang members will not work, (although I’m not for letting them go if caught) rather, there are cultural as well as political reasons for the existence of gangs – it’s more complex than a “Death Wish II” scenario of a helpless population surrounded by proto-punk aggressors. Just the fact of multiple generations of inter-familial gang membership should point to the problem being more than just “criminal behavior”. Remember, Jesse James and his gang were bad-asses . . . until they rode into Northfield, Minnesota.

    Gangs exist because the population allows it, and the interplay between police, justice, politicians, civic “leaders”, along with cultural tradition, make for the arena in which it occurs. It would be nice to militarize everything and just be rid of them, but that is simply not going to happen.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  29. Well, I was talking about the “unorganized” militia; which is you and I.

    If Chi-town has different levels of sworn “police” patrolling the same areas, that just might explain why the town is so law-less. Everyone is relying on the other guy to do the job, and the job goes un-done.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  30. No, the gun comment doesn’t belong there, because legally sold guns most likely had NOTHING to do with the death of the child. Next, the 2nd gives us guns, legally, just like the gangbangers have legally formed gangs allowed by freedom of association (it’s what they do after they form that is illegal). Why didn’t the doctor complain about the legally formed gangs???

    It is the Iraq comment that bothered me the most…talk about something completely and absolutely unrelated to the shooting of a child, and because of posse comitatus, soldiers can’t fight gangbangers in the streets of any American city….at least he didn’t blame the police for stopping it before it happened…

    Of course, what are the odds that the gangbanger who did this should have been in jail, but for some failure of the judicial system, and the doctor, of course, didn’t bother to wonder about that….

    I’m digressing again….

    reff (59b2ad)

  31. Apogee:
    You posit that only by changing the community culture can the gang culture be changed or eliminated.
    Well, in the spirit of the way to get rid of an unpopular law is to enforce the Hell out of it; I would propose that these communities be walled off and left to their own devices. They will either change their acquiescence to gangdom, or they will die (and not just metaphorically).

    Perhaps they can find some Samurai to save their bacon.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  32. Drew – I agree with much of what you say in many of your posts.

    But not here. The only places on the planet where walls have been erected (and not without much international protest) and are successful in their stated intent are places like Anbar province and the West Bank – where factions of one area’s population are infiltrating into other areas. The walls have been completely unsuccessful at pacifying the walled-off “bad” areas.

    The only progress in those type of areas has come from COIN operations – conducted by either an external force working with the population, such as in Anbar, or a splinter faction that gains power because a large section of the population desires an improvement in their lot.

    This is what I was saying in my earlier post – I find it interesting and pointed that the Doc rails against the Iraq war, when the prosecution of that war has proven one thing conclusively – it is impossible to improve people’s lot without their help and input. Gen. Petraus admits this and constantly makes the point. The Marines could kill everyone in Iraq, but they were unable to improve the situation, stabilize the country or restore order without the help of the population. And remarkably, once that population had made its decision to go with the Marines, everything changed. The Doc doesn’t see this, and in my mind, that is one of the reasons that it continues. I’m not trying to be heartless, but rather than get emotional at the horrible death of a child, I think it more important to attempt to unemotionally analyze the situation so that the next child can possibly be spared.

    Maybe your wall comment was snark, but the reason I mentioned the politicians, judiciary, civic “leaders” and culture is because all of those things are intertwined in preventing the populations of these communities from making the changes necessary to rid themselves of these gang problems. I sense from your post that you don’t think it’s gotten bad enough for the people to be motivated to throw out the gangs. I’m not quite sure how much worse it could get. These people are killing each other, and blaming unrelated externals only serves to continue the slaughter.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  33. DC has had gun control for thirty years. Britain has had gun control for about 60 years. Neither has done any good and both are violent places where ordinary people are routinely killed by gun-armed criminals.

    Guns are cheap and easy to make (just ask Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Bulgarian, Italian, Croatian, and Chinese gunmakers).They are also easily smuggled and concealed (in many handgun models). Quite profitable too. You can no more keep guns out of the inner city as you can reform human nature and keep drugs out. Or “reform the world” so that bad guys are arrested by Superman and the Justice League without violence, killing, and dying all around. Or I suppose we could just surrender to the violent men in South Central or Iraq. Though I suspect the surgeon would not living under their rule much.

    Who killed that boy? Why the widespread and constant support for gangs and gang violence by Blacks in South Central. Who don’t want to tear down their defacto militias they use to keep control over their neighborhoods from Latinos (largely Mexican). If the people of South Central WANTED an end to Gang Violence they could have it — by supporting the police and more taxes for more police. They have opposed both because while they don’t like dead young boys they prefer it to the rule of law not gangs.

    Gangs give them power, wealth, money (to most businesses and churches there) and keep rival groups away. Let’s be honest about it.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  34. To answer the doctor’s question of why we still sell guns in this country. California woman slain while on the line with 911.
    Because the police are minutes away, when you have seconds to live.

    papertiger (4d1249)


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