Ethics - Moral law vs. Criminal law

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
Another whistle blower's fate

Today, I read an update article about a guy I've followed in the news for several years: Dr. Raymond Pollak, who was a reknowned transplant surgeon for the University of Illinois in Chicago (Chief of Transplant Surgery.)

Back in the 90's, he blew the whistle on the practice of hospitals (and their surgeons) falsely report a potential transplant recipients state of health so they could move the patient up the list and so the hospitals receive more organs, perform more transplants and receive more money from medicare and medicaid.

He blew the whistle. The feds joined him and he received $500,000 of a $2.5 million dollar settlement.

The fallout is this - the University retaliated and stuck him in a low status job at a Peoria campus at 1/3 his former salary PLUS he no longer has an opportunity to do transplants on live patients, but is relegated to being the guy who harvests organs from dead folk and transports the organs to waiting transplant teams in his own car. Hospitals with donor corpses don't want to take up valuable daytime operating room time, so he is forced to do the harvesting between midnight and morning when the operating rooms are seldom used.

He is virtually blacklisted throughout the world.

So here is his fallout - goes from $300,000/year salary plus transplant operating fees to $100,000/year salary and miniscule fees for harvesting organs. Goes from prestige at largest medical school in the country to a lowly branch in Peoria where the University essentially stuck him in a 10 by 15 office to twiddle his thumbs all day, because they instituted a policy after he arrived to stop referring cases to University doctors (him.)

My summary of the situation is that Dr. Pollak went on a Crusade without first checking with an attorney. He relished the publicity it got him, but the University simply paid up, cut him off at the ankles, and got the last laugh. Who knows whether there was a conspiracy to prevent him from being hired anywhere else?

Gramps always said, "Revenge is a pie best tasted cold!" The University folks are certainly savoring that pie now.

My guess is his net loss so far (factoring in the $500,000 award) is about $1,000,000 from what he would have received if he had been an anonymous (to the wrongdoers) tattletale. (He would have received about $250,000 finders fee instead of $500,000 as co-plaintiff with the government, but he would have also received an extra $1,200,000 in salary.)

The moral of the tale:
If the Chief of transplant surgery of the biggest medical school in the country can end up with the short end of the stick, blacklisted and making only a third of what he should be making, then surely the rest of us need to make a reality check before we leap in a pot of boiling tar,
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Bill Pflanz

The other possible moral of the tale:

Determine how much you are willing to sell out your ethics and principles for and then use that figure to decide what is the right thing to do.

Bill Pflanz

Jim Howe

The moral of the tale:
If the Chief of transplant surgery of the biggest medical school in the country can end up with the short end of the stick, blacklisted and making only a third of what he should be making, then surely the rest of us need to make a reality check before we leap in a pot of boiling tar,
Quite a story Wes, He certainly paid a price didn't he. You know one of the best things Mother ever taught me was "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS". Being the chief of transplant surgery he should have been content but no he had to get involved in areas outside his core.
How many professionals have atendency to do the same thing and get stung by learning something they shouldn't.
A few years back the president of the company said to me "Jim, be carefull what you wish for because it just may come true!". Words of wisdom, I suspect!


Super Moderator
Super Moderator
Al Rosen said:
Or in other words, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished".
One of my favorite quotes, Al. And so true almost every time. But, eventually, what goes around, comes around. Or, for another one of my favorites: They'll get theirs eventually.

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
Sure, the "powers that be" at the university "may" get what's coming eventually, but in the meantime,
  • the doctor's family suffers a loss of income
  • the doctor does not perform work helpful to society (transplants)
  • other potential whistleblowers are deterred because they don't see how to accomplish the whistleblowing without getting punished.
My entire thesis is:
the whistleblower should be aware of the consequences and take steps to protect himself. The doctor did not consider the consequences before he went on his Crusade. If he had, he could still be enjoying the benefits and providing service to society and accomplished the task of eliminating a practice detrimental to society.

I'm trying to point out a method to be a whistleblower and not go into self-destruct mode!

Tim Folkerts

Super Moderator
"Mind your own business" is a good idea to keep in mind, but there is also the idea of the Good Samaritan, where the point was that we should all help each other even if its not easy. Besides, this was his business. He was the doctor who noticed something wrong and set about making it right.

I'll admit that the doctor could have thought through some of the consequences and perhaps come to a slightly improved course of action. On the other hand:
  • an anonymous complaint may well not have accomplished the goal, since officials wouldn't have felt the public pressure.
  • living on "just" $100,000 is still pretty comfortable.
  • he is still saving lives every day. By getting organs to the right patients, more people will live, and they will live longer, more productive lives.
  • other rule-breakers saw another example of getting caught. Who knows how many of them shaped up because of this incident?
  • other potential whistle-blowers saw society benefitting when rule-breakers were called to task.
As Wes said way back at the start "Are you afraid life, health, safety of people are affected by the wrongdoing? Do it!" This is clearly such a case!

Tim F

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
I see another thread has been started describing the fraudulent behavior of a registrar
in Malaysia.

From an ethics standpoint, how would you, as a supplier with a "legitimate" registration, protect yourself against the unfair competition of other suppliers with a "certified registration as paid for" who may be able to cut corners and undercut prices, not to mention deliver shoddy goods and service?

The major conundrum is that there is no correlation to the quality of goods versus
  • registered,
  • registered under false pretenses,
  • not registered.
The pure fact is the falsely registered guy or the unregistered guy may have as good or better quality goods than the registered guy.

I don't have a valid answer which I think would hold true in a substantial portion of the cases, certainly nothing approaching even half of the cases.

I'd like to read some comments about protecting your own organization from losing out to competitors who would not even be in the market except for a fraudulent registration (obtained through a combination of bribery to, and extortion by the registrar.)

Obviously, I expect to read only ETHICAL solutions.

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
No ethical solutions?

No takers on ethical solutions to weeding out or protecting your own organization from fraudulent registrars and the organizations that fraudulently obtain registration to compete unfairly with you and other legitimate registrants?

Ron Rompen

Trusted Information Resource
I would hesitate to offer this as a 'solution', since it isn't actually DOING anything.

We rely, in large part, on our reputation with our customers. We are fortunate enough to be in a (relatively) small manufacturing niche, and suppliers are few and far between.

There is a lot of cross-talk between quality people, engineering people, designers, buyers, etc, and word quickly gets around who is a 'good supplier' and who isn't.

If I was in the position of, for example, a machine shop, I would offer on-site process audits of current product, examples of customer surveys, copies of awards and citations, etc. Anything that comes from a CUSTOMER, rather than a supplier (and your registrar IS your supplier, however much they may try and pretend otherwise).
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