What do you think? Was Kerry wrong to contact OSHA?

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I liked the sub-plot of Kerry and Luka's disagreement over whether to contact officials about what Kerry assumed was a possible violation of work-place safety codes. Even though by doing that she caused so much trauma and sadness, can we really blame her? I guess she should have listened more to Luka's side instead of her usual brushing aside any logic other that "playing by the book." It causes us to empathyze with the political decisions that medical personnel make and the effects on human lives that they have. Do you think Kerry was blaming herself and maybe reflecting on her lack of flexibility, or not? Will she be different? I like the character, but she does need to some softening up sometimes. Maybe her new relationship will help her in that respect. What do you think?

-- René Knowles (rknowles@charter.net), February 02, 2001


Kerry seems to firmly believe that rules are in place to help people, and that if you follow the rules you are helping. As you say, she's very "by the book". I could see her side, and Luka's side. Although she could never have guessed the drastic outcome of her actions, I think there was no question that she blamed herself for the deaths and injuries involved. I don't know if she will ultimately change as a result, though. It was sort of a freak accident.

-- MM (conjuror_3x3@hotmail.com), February 02, 2001.

was kerry the cause of the fire? i must have missed something. i thought someone knocked over a portable heater and it landed in some turpentine?

-- ALexis Springer (lexicat1@webtv.net), February 02, 2001.

I only caught part of this, but I think that some INS officials said they had been tipped off by OSHA, and when they went rushing in, in the confusion someone knocked over the heater or whatever it was. So in a sense, Kerry's actions ultimately led to the disaster. Someone correct me if this wasn't what happened; like I said, I didn't catch it all.

-- Gina (vs6599@netscape.net), February 02, 2001.

This is interesting, because what was presented in the show differed from what appeared in the official NBC spoiler. In the show, Kerry called OSHA, and OSHA called the INS, which staged a raid. An INS raid means the workers would have been arrested and deported if they didn't have green cards, so the workers tried to run. In the panic, someone knocked over some turpentine near the heater, and the workers were trapped in the resulting fire because the windows were barred. The official spoiler said that the factory owners delibrately set the fire with the workers trapped insude, to conceal the evidance.

What bothered me about this is that Kerry, and any big city ER, gets illegal aliens in all the time, and most of them don't want to talk to anyone in authority about anything whatsoever. Kerry would know this, and if she made a point of reporting every possible OSHA violation she came across, she'd have no time to treat patients. There was nothing about the situation that seemed to call for her to make such a big deal out of it.

As for Luka, he must have all his papers in order, or he wouldn't be licensed to practice, but I am sure he has had encounters with the INS before, and trust me, they are not pleasant people to deal with at all. You've seen Frank the desk clerk's attitude towards Luka? He'd fit right in with INS people I have encountered (I work for a law firm that does occaisional immigration cases). Kerry is too smart and too knowledgable not to have forseen that the INS would get involved if OSHA was called, and to have her act surprised when she heard they had been called was just not realistic. Of course she could not possibly have forseen the fire, but she should have known nothing good would come of it for the workers.

-- Melinda (mross@value.met), February 02, 2001.

OSHA? INS? these stand for.... (Haven't watched the eppy yet, and i'm not American - i'm Australian.)

-- Ritaann (er_aussie@hotmail.com), February 03, 2001.

OSHA: Office of Safety.../Occupational Safety ... (damn, can't remember--sorry). They deal with the environmental safety of workplaces.

INS: Immigration and Naturalization Services. This one I know for sure. They, of course, deal with immigrants and the enforcement of deportation, as well as the process of naturalizing immigrants and making them American citizens.

-- Colleen (ruradiant@hotmail.com), February 03, 2001.

OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Assoc.

-- James (Eorejim@aol.com), February 03, 2001.

This is something I find really interesting about TV shows and viewers. In the real world, doctors are required -by law- to report certain things (gunshot wounds, crimes, things of that nature). I don't know if occupational injuries fall into that category, specifically, but I imagine they would.

So I find it interesting that when a character on a TV show actually follows the law everyone finds it so unusual!

Sure, if word got out that the docs reported everything, there would be no patients. But if the word got out that the docs weren't reporting anything, I'd think there'd be a lot of docs in jail!

-- Lynn (lynn@wordsmyth.org), February 03, 2001.

Melinda: There was nothing about the situation that seemed to call for her to make such a big deal out of it. i guess she made a big deal out of it because that guy almost lost his finger. that could be a big deal. i think Kerry was concerned about the way the employees were being treated at the job, and the unsafe conditions there.just MHO

-- ALexis Springer (lexicat1@webtv.net), February 03, 2001.

But did Kerry really make a "big deal" out of it? She saw what she thought -may- have been a problem and told the people whose job it is to look into such things and determine if they -are- problems. It's not like she went banging on doors demanding that OSHA investigate this immediately or anything like that.

There's an obvious parallel between this situation and the one where Luka was treating the two brothers and Kerry called Social Services. Yes, the outcome of that was also unfortunate but as Kerry said in that episode - Social Services is equipped to deal with that kind of situation. They have the training, the expertise and the resouces that overworked docs at a County hospital simply don't have.

I find it refreshing when a character actually acknowledges things like that and doesn't try to do everyone else's job.

-- Lynn (lynn@wordsmyth.org), February 03, 2001.

Kerry was 100% right to contact OSHA. The system is in place for a reason. It isn't Kerry's job--or should I say Luka's job--to second-guess how it works. They're just supposed to report these kinds of things to the proper authorities. Sure, in this case, there were tragic consequences, but how could Kerry have foreseen that? Who could have? We're certainly not doing illegal immigrants any favors by letting them work in sweatshops, anyway.

-- Laura Lindstrom (llindstr@law.harvard.edu), February 03, 2001.

We're certainly not doing illegal immigrants any favors by letting them work in sweatshops, anyway.

This line sounds just like a liberal, making the decision about what is best for a person they don't know anything about. Other posts make the point that Kerry may have overreacted by contacting OSHA, and considering the detective work needed to determine where the man worked (remember, he didn't talk, and they had to find the taxi company or driver to even get the information of where his job was.) Perhaps she did.

-- Marie (Momba@mariesmail.com), February 03, 2001.

I am an emergency physician & we are supposed to report certain accidents in the workplace to OSHA. These are federal regulations not state regulations like COBRA. They include injuries possible from unsafe working conditions. Do we report them all? Probably not as many as we should. The reporting is like with child abuse. If you suspect something or something is suspicious, you call it in & let the experts investigate the situation. We do not in my state have to report illegal immigrants but I think they do in California. The problem with this episode is that this is television. Of course there was a raid the same day. All the victims came to the same ED. Kerry got to feel guilty & Luka got to feel superior, which is not right. Kerry is very aware of the rules. She seems to be the only one who does know & follow the rules. The last 7 seasons have seen Doug, Carter, Carol, everyone else all doing whatever they pleased & the rules be damned. I don't know why people who follow the rules in these situations are ridiculed & belittled. These rules are in place to protect people & they do for the most part. Kerry will feel guilty because that's how they've set up the situation but she should not. She shouldn't really change how she acts. Ultimately she is doing the right thing, with this OSHA thing, with Mark & with Carter.

-- (ripwoman@aol.com), February 05, 2001.

Kerry probably didn't connect INS to OSHA immediately, which was a mistake. Notice her surprise when she found out that INS had been contacted. I was a little surprised that she failed to connect the dots. Apparently she didn't think that one illegal in a downtown shop usually equals a dozen. Remember her comment to Luka, "No one is going to get deported." (Well, no Kerry, but people *are* going to die!)

I am reminded here of Doug Ross: "Sometimes the rules get in the way of patient care." (I don't know if that's a direct quote or not, but that did seem to be his credo, didn't it?) Kerry acted according to the law, but unfortunately, it had devastating consequences. Same thing happened to Carter with his young AIDS patient a few eps back, remember.

Here's something I've noticed. It seems that when these docs actually follow the rules, the patient suffers, and when they don't, their patients...don't, but the doc pays (sometimes anyway-ala D. Ross) Anybody else notice this?

And if you think we aren't doing illegals any favors by working them in sweatshops, try getting a job in Guatemala sometime. American manufacturers are moving their production facilities out of the country because they can't afford to do business here. South of the Border, they can pay workers less than U.S. minimum wage and offer rudimentary benefits and still turn a tidy profit. And the townsfolk love every minute of it. They've never had it so good. So its worth it for illegals to work here, even with no benefits. Even at less than minimum wage, it's still more money than they'll ever see back home.

P.S. This is in no way an endorsement for coming to this country illegally, or for those horrible sweatshops. I'm just saying everyone should stop and think of all angles before jumping to conclusions. Remember they call America the "land of opportunity" for a reason.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), February 05, 2001.

I tried to post this once, but I think it failed, so if this repeats, apologies...

I thought OSHA was the Occupational Safety and Health Administration...

:) Jenna

-- Jenna (JennaLunt@aol.com), February 06, 2001.

In case anyone is interested, this question was well handled at bioethics.net this week.

-- Kate (yfpy0050@yorku.ca), February 07, 2001.

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