Sunday, April 20, 2014

Should American Professionals Be Held Criminally Responsible For Mistakes?



The horrible news of a ferry sinking that resulted in the deaths of dozens of teenagers in South Korea has been front page news in recent days. In other nations, unlike the United States, professionals are often held criminally responsible when someone dies - because of a mistake on their part. It has been reported that the captain and two crew members were arrested within hours of that ship sinking. Here in the United States - professionals like doctors, lawyers and ship captains are usually not prosecuted criminally when their mistakes lead to the death of someone. Instead, the US court system is set up to punished people through a civil rather than a criminal process. I have often wondered if the US model for punishing mistakes was the better one until recently. Sadly, when people are killed via the mistakes of others – there is a gut instinct inside of the victims family members to want to see someone go to jail for what they did. Almost always there is a rush to judgment when emotions are raw to their core and most of the time those feelings are not based in sound logic. After watching what has transpired in South Korea the past couple of days, I now firmly believe that the United States got it right by handling these matters in a civil court. An eye for an eye and the need for vengeance against someone who has hurt you, often times leads good and decent people to descend into a dark place where no one should go. It's so hard to watch those family members suffering in South Korea as rescue workers do their best to recover the victims. While I have many problems with how the criminal justice system works in the USA, separating mistakes from deliberate actions is the right thing to do.

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