For example, a hospital I am familiar with reacts to human errors such as a resident failing to call for help when confronted with a patient who is crashing as follows: Instead of doing remedial work with the resident, the incident is labeled a system error. A task force is convened and after several meetings, a new directive is issued stating that certain patient-related events mandate a call to an upper level resident or an attending physician. Of course the next time a crashing patient is seen at 3 a.m., the problem will not involve one of the listed events. Like the sentinel event, the real problem is a human failure to recognize that a patient is in trouble.
Now comes news that the Secret Service is sending its agents to an intensive ethics training course at Johns Hopkins University.
What this says to me is that married Secret Service agents, who are entrusted with the protection of the President, do not realize that getting drunk and frolicking with prostitutes in a foreign country is wrong. Apparently, the Secret Service feels their people need ethics training to help them with such knotty issues.
What would happen if you asked a group of high school boys this question, “If you were a married Secret Service agent with the presidential entourage in say, South America, would it be all right if you got drunk at a strip club and took a prostitute back to your hotel?” Despite lacking formal ethics training, I bet most of them would probably answer, “No.”
There could be a system problem involving the Secret Service, but it’s not about ethics. Maybe it's related to the way in which agents are selected.
Like prospective medical students, candidates for jobs with the Secret Service may need to pass a test that reveals their warm and fuzzy side.
No, I don't think it's about a system problem with ethics. I say it's a lack of both character and common sense.
PS: I hope the ethics class touches on the subject of “A Deal is a Deal.” If you agree to pay someone $800.00 for their services when you know you have only $225.00, that is truly unethical.