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Rewarding Bad Behavior

from the magazine

Rewarding Bad Behavior

The British lead the way. Winter 2007
Cities
Public safety
The Social Order

A former colleague of mine in the hospital where I once worked told me of a recent incident there.

A young man, admitted for a medical condition, drew out a gun, held it to the back of an intern, and demanded that she give him a heroin injection. She surrendered the keys to the ward medicine cupboard to him and told him to help himself. Then she alerted the authorities, who cleared the ward and called the police.

By the time the police’s armed response team arrived, the young man had injected himself with so much heroin that he had fallen unconscious. Never was an arrest easier, therefore—though the man had to stay for a while in the hospital while receiving an antidote to the heroin, and he recovered consciousness before the police took him down to the station.

This might not be the end of the matter, however. Not long ago, nearly 200 imprisoned addicts received compensation of $8,000 each from the government, because, they alleged, officials had forced them to undergo heroin withdrawal—a medically trivial condition—too quickly when they first arrived in prison. Among them were quite a number of illegal immigrants: they probably couldn’t believe their luck (or British stupidity).

Perhaps the young man who drew the gun on the doctor will also claim to have had to withdraw from heroin too rapidly and demand his $8,000. He could then write a guide for like-minded individuals, entitled Threatening Doctors for Pleasure and Profit.

The only cheering aspect of the whole episode was the subsequent conduct of the young doctor. She refused all offers to stay home from work after her ordeal, saying that it would be better for her well-being to resume work immediately. She did not want to be counseled into neurosis.

If only some of our politicians displayed similar backbone.

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