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January 22, 2014

When Did Liability Supersede Life?

Since the mid 1970’s, we have appeared to grow to be a predominantly litigious society. So much so that liability appears to be more important than life! We no longer think of the child or the person first. We are trained to think of the liability first and the person second. For example, we are told NOT to physically help a person in a car accident because we could be held liable! We have been trained to think “liability” so much that we no longer trust (although this is only one of several components). Furthermore, the “liability” mentality appears to have aided in the fragmentation of our society and culture! “Liability” positioning also seems to have aided in the entitlement that appears to be a dominant characteristic of our people. It is a fighting mentality: a me-against-you mentality.

 

Anyway, I have digressed. To me, the most painful of all of this is the reality of liability overriding human welfare. It is no longer a community raising the children. It is the community staying away from someone else’s child. Thereby creating an environment with an absence of safety for the child. Think about it. A child who plays with friends in the neighborhood and knows all adults are watching him or her to be sure he or she is ok, feels very safe. A child who walks “empty” streets to a friend’s house (because they know no other adults), feels greater aloneness and fear. So, fear begets fear! Fear fragments! So, here we are — a culture where we are increasing the fear and mistrust.

 

Is it starting to make “sense” why we are so mistrusting and litigious?! Can you see how, if we are untrusting of one another, we cannot have community and if we do not have community, then we are going to become self-centered, -serving, and -contained?! It is from that point that the “paranoia” of litigation begins. I have known many professionals in the health-care industry who do the least possible reporting of child and spouse abuse. In other words, if another reported the abuse, they document that in their notes and keep moving forward like they are not responsible. But what about when they have information that could decide the case? Many times, a health-care professional sits quietly in the background due to fear of litigation if they come forward with their proof. Often times, there is a person who suffers as a result of that choice to refrain.

 

It is no longer ok for a physician to tell the spouse what is going on with their partner without formal ok. I have witnessed a situation where a violent parent was visiting with their adolescent child. The child was scared about the parents intention. Yet, when I asked the charge nurse to dispatch a behavior technician into the visitation room to quietly observe the interactions, I was met with a resounding NO! I was informed the facility cannot be liable. What about the welfare of the child?! An adult person, in a seriously abusive relationship, cannot get support until there is “physical evidence” (physical harm) — because of liability. We cannot seek support in an abusive relationship until the physical abuse has taken over to a point of visibility??!! How does a culture allow this to get so out of control?

 

With the absence of community and family, and the absence of trust, the more fear in which we will live and therefore the more litigious we will become as a people. The more litigious we become, the more we will fear one another and the less apt we are to feel apathy, altruism, and responsibility to protect or warn. A great example is one day I was a passenger in a car of 7 adults. We passed a new accident. I said, “call 911”. The response I got was, “No, I’m sure that’s already been done!” So, I pulled my phone out and called and everyone got upset that I wasn’t obedient. Here’s why I wasn’t. Years ago on an Easter weekend, I was on Alligator Alley in South Florida. Two cars in front of me I saw the smoke of an accident and immediately called 911. I described the accident as it had just unfolded and gave the mile marker 45 for reference. I was one of MANY passing cars and yet was the first to call emergency services. So, why was i the first? Why do people not want to get involved? I believe that we have lost our sense of community and altruism. I believe that, in part, we are thinking too much about protecting our Self from litigation to respond to the welfare of our people.

 

For today, notice at least one thought you will have that is aware of liability. Then allow yourself to answer the question, “Where did I learn to think this way?” If we can move beyond this mentality one person at a time, we have the hope of creating change in the way we each help one another.

 

2 Comments »

  1. Good job Kristen! Thanks for the awareness and oh so important insight!

    Comment by Holly — January 23, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  2. Thank you very much Holly 🙂

    Comment by Kristen Bomas — January 23, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

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