Legalization has already wiped out one of our most bothersome traditions. No longer must we accept responsibility for our own behavior, because the courts will assign responsibility to us. That's why lawyers tell us that apologizing for hurting someone is an admission of guilt. And we must maintain our innocence until we are proven guilty (or poor). This change alone has almost entirely rid us of the stench of human decency.
A recent case has brought to light an even more exciting transformation: the elimination of disease and suffering. For generations, the medical profession has clung desperately to the scientific method for diagnosis and treatment. And patients died anyway. That's because scientific results are never certain. Yet now, the medical profession is learning that physicians can find absolute certainty by adopting the adversary system, as evidenced by a pivotal, but little-known case.
The undisputed facts are these: A bartender found Peter Pinochle, a 45-year-old man, lying unconscious, his face covered with blood, on the floor of the bar's rest room. The bartender immediately called paramedics, who transported Mr. Pinochle to the hospital, where the emergency room physician examined him, started IV fluids, ordered lab tests and X-rays, and admitted him to the intensive care unit. There, he was attended by another physician, Dr. Abel. The following day, Mr. Pinochle regained consciousness. Dr. Abel explained the results of his workup to Mr. Pinochle. The patient required immediate surgery because he had lung cancer.
Mr. Pinochle did not take the charge lying down. He sat up, loudly proclaimed his innocence, and demanded a second opinion. Following hospital protocol, the nurse in attendance advised Mr. Pinochle of his right to remain silent, and summoned Dr. Cain, an experienced defense doctor.
As it turned out, the case never went
to trial. At the preliminary hearing, the judge ruled that Mr. Pinochle
was presumed healthy because Dr. Abel could not prove he was sick. A sample
of the testimony illustrates how effectively Dr. Cain advocated for the
patient in cross examining Dr. Abel.
Dr. Abel: I did. You see, it was a classic shadow. Anyone could have diagnosed the cancer from that film.
Dr. Cain: So you relied exclusively on the X-ray?
Dr. Abel: Yes.
Dr. Cain: And had you obtained my client's permission to X-ray his chest?
Dr. Abel: Of course not! He was comatose at the time.
Dr. Cain (to the court): Move to strike. Unresponsive.
Judge (to the witness): You will answer the question.
Dr. Abel: I did not obtain his permission.
Dr. Cain: Well, doctor, did you obtain a warrant for the X-ray before you allowed those insidious beams to penetrate my client's body?
Dr. Abel: But . . . . It was an emergency! He was coughing up blood. I didn't have time.
Dr. Cain (to the court): Move to strike. Unresponsive again.
Judge: I'll not warn you again, doctor. Answer the question or I'll send you to the path lab.
Dr. Abel: No.
Dr. Cain: No what, Dr. Abel?
Dr. Abel: No warrant, sir.
Dr. Cain (to the court): Your honor,
in light of Dr. Abel's egregious unwarranted search and seizure, I move
to exclude all of the X-rays from evidence.
The Pinochle case was clearly a triumph of the certainty of legal fiction over the uncertainty of scientific knowledge. History will record the case as a major advance in the revolution to legalize all of medicine—a movement that started more than a century ago with psychiatry. And eventually legalization will make our entire society healthier.
Because his name will always be associated with this revolution, I wanted to interview Mr. Pinochle a month after the proceeding. Unfortunately, he had died. But not from cancer, of course. He died of natural causes. After all, everyone dies. It's natural.