Doing the Right Thing

Joe Paterno was fired today.  After learning that a member of his coaching staff was a child molester, he allowed him to continue coaching and have access to children.  For some reason Paterno chose to not do the right thing.  Perhaps he was in denial.  Perhaps it was to protect his iconic institution and his reputation from a scandal.  He may have faced pressure to keep quiet.  Maybe the accused defensive coordinator was too talented to risk losing.  Whatever the reason, Paterno’s lack of action created opportunities for more children to be harmed. Being sad about his reputation for winning football games is silly.

EMS has had its share of scandals recently. There’s been theft in Chicago and Houston. There were deaths after some questionable patient refusals in DC, and of course there is the Massachusetts training scandal. We EMS people have an enormous amount of responsibility, and I think our profession needs to take them more seriously.  We see people on the worst day of their lives.  We take care of people who no one else cares about when no one else is looking. We are alone with people when they are naked, intoxicated, and unconscious.  We have access to their medications and valuables.  We have lots of opportunities to not do the right thing.  Our profession, our organization, and our individual character is defined by how we act in these situations.

Doing the right thing may seem like more work, until after someone dies, gets fired, or goes to prison.  Often the right thing is not popular.  Doing it may also get you fired, but this consequence pales in comparison to allowing children to be abused.   Sometimes we may not know what the right thing is.  When this happens, one option is to think about how a story about the decision you make would look in the newspaper.  Another option is to think about how you would want a loved one to be treated.  At some point it is inevitable that we will not do the right thing.  When it happens, we must take responsibility, make it right, and learn from the experience.

So do the right thing.  Our patients and our profession depends on it.



  1. Great post. When someone is lying, stealing, or cheating in the workplace someone else always knows. If you are the someone that knows, ask yourself, “why am I protecting someone that is eventually going to get me fired or worse?” Do the right thing!

    • emspatientperspective says:

      Thanks Greg, that’s another point that I hadn’t thought of. One thing somewhat unique to EMS is that you can’t hide from a partner.


  1. […] Paramedic Bob Sullivan, at the EMS Patient Perspective, reminded us early in the month about how important it is to Do the Right Thing. […]

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