Sunday, July 10, 2016

Deliberate Indifference

By Elizabeth O'Meara Adams

The brief legal definition of deliberate indifference is "the conscious or reckless disregard of the consequences of one's acts or omissions. (

An internet search on “deliberate indifference” will bring up many links, most of which are related to jail populations, but also some in relation to school and work environments.

But based on the definition above, I see deliberate indifference as the core issue within our government and powers that be. From this deeply ingrained attitude does the bulk of government action (and inaction) take place. The current election cycle has brought this to the forefront, seen most recently in the Democratic Party’s platform, which refused to lift the cap on Social Security and supports the TPP. The Democratic Party used to be called the party of the people, but it can only be that if the definition of “people” is the Supreme Court definition, which conflates corporations with living, breathing, suffering human beings.

Deliberate indifference is so deeply ingrained in the United States, inequality in all aspects of U. S. life just gets worse and worse. And the absolute worst outcome of this inequality has finally been brought to the open for all to see. It is a deliberate indifference that is more obvious and much more lethal. It is that of the criminal “justice” apparatus: the apparatus that incentivizes arrests to fill jail cells, keep the coffers full, and otherize human beings who have non-white skin.

The videos we have seen, thanks to unimaginably brave witnesses, are showing anyone not afflicted with cognitive dissonance how utterly fucked up our nation is. And these crimes against our citizens did not just start taking place since the advent of social media.

The deliberate indifference starts with the initial contact over a minor infraction, which wouldn’t have taken place had the person been Caucasian. It continues to the next level with the use of lethal force. And then the second shot. And the third. And the fourth.

And it continues even further with the startling lack of medical attention. If shooting another human being to hell doesn’t say someone doesn’t value another life, leaving them to certain death does. Disregarded at the beginning of the encounter, discarded like a piece of trash at the end, these people are paying the ultimate price for society’s failure to give a damn.

  • Forcing a woman out of her car, threatening to taser her, and slamming her head on the ground during a stop for failing to signal a lane change. #SandraBrown #DeliberateIndifference

  • Taking the time to handcuff a cooperative unarmed woman while her boyfriend bleeds out during a stop for a broken taillight. #PhilandoCastile #DeliberateIndifference #CPR #EMS

  • Shooting an unarmed man in broad daylight, as he runs away from you, and not calling EMS or attempting CPR while he bleeds out. #MichaelBrown #DeliberateIndifference

  • Worrying more about getting in trouble than providing life-saving help to an innocent man whom you just shot. #PhilandoCastile #DeliberateIndifference
  • Using deadly force on a man selling CDs and not initiating life-saving measures. #AntonSterling #DeliberateIndifference

  • Americans should be “troubled” by the videotaped murders by police, but we are “horrified” by the “senseless” murders of police officers. #DeliberateIndifference #TargetedDronesKillInnocentBrownPeople

  • When you are harming someone who is not harming you, you are judge and jury. When you do nothing to save his/her life, you are executioner. #DeliberateIndifference #BlackLivesMatter


Elizabeth O'Meara Adams is a nurse-practitioner residing in Northern California. She volunteered as a Nevada caucus leader for Bernie Sanders and wrote about her experiences here and here.


Jay–Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay–Ottawa said...

Nobody else around the philosophical park bench today. So I'll just have to talk to myself and the busy squirrels.

July 10th, the date of this post by E. O. Adams, happens to be the Sunday in the liturgical cycle for some churches where the parable of the Good Samaritan takes center stage.

Before going further, I should ask the pardon of atheists, agnostics and people of a different creed whom I respect and have no intention to proselytize or even annoy. It’s just that the parable of the Good Samaritan is such a good tale, and I find it echoes Ms Adams's post about "deliberate indifference."

So, a religious lawyer from around 30 CE is trying to trap a street preacher into contradicting himself or the law. This street preacher person had to be taken down because he was gaining a reputation for thinking out of the box and coming up with notions not widely accepted by the elites of his day.

Turns out the law was clear to both the lawyer and the street person. They agreed the law boiled down to service to God and the neighbor. No trap sprung that time. The religious lawyer then posed another tricky question. "Yes, but who is my neighbor?"

In response the street person comes up with a flash short story. About a traveler on the road to Jerico who gets jumped by bandits and ends up broken and bleeding in a ditch. A priest goes by, takes note of the victim, and to avoid the necessity of going through the religious rigmarole of shedding impurity for having come close to a dead or near dead corpse, he crosses over to the other side of the road. Same thing with another member of the religious elite who came by later. Deliberate Indifference, right?

The story goes on to describe the third passerby, the so-called Good Samaritan nice guy, but the neighbor issue is more important. Let's stick with that.

Who is my neighbor? The son-of-a bitch who just cut in front of me in traffic then answers my impatient toot with the birdie? One of the men or women listed in Adams's list of broken people? Yeah, I suppose; and yeah, of course.

Here's another one for you: How about the cop who pumped four bullets into a guy called Philando? Not Philando, the shaking cop, him as my neighbor?

Unless we begin seeing neighbors in need where there were none before––jumped by bandits, unwitting human stupidity, or deliberate indifference––our ditches will begin to overflow with broken bodies, more than the available Good Samaritans can ever hope to handle.

Neil said...


I see deliberate indifference all the time in the court system, where lawyers and judges are present. Earlier this year Riverside County Judge Charles Haines (California) evicted a 100-year-old woman, Evelyn Heller, from her Palm Springs apartment for allegedly causing a commotion. But the facts show Heller’s daughter started the commotion when she visited her mother. The story appears in the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal online.

"The landlord, Deep Canyon Desert, was represented by William Windham. He told the Desert Sun he felt conflicted but it was part of his job as an eviction specialist."

""I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial," Windham said. "But my job is unfortunately to set my feeling aside and do what my clients ask me to do.""

Judge Haines allowed Heller to represent herself even though counsel should have been appointed.

"Heller didn’t realize she had lost the case until a deputy told her outside the courtroom. She has two weeks to find a new place to stay."

An in-depth news story appears in The Desert Sun,

The ABA story is just 7 short paragraphs, but the comment section is much longer, due to my support of Evelyn Heller (as "nonlawyer") and the "deliberate indifference" of a couple of lawyers in opposition. There’s way to much to write here, but for anyone interested, see the ABA story comments,

Another cause of deliberate indifference are government workers who look the other way when confronted with wrongdoing, because they need their job, they need a paycheck.

Deliberate indifference is linked to the idea that anyone can get ahead in this country if they just get out of bed and go to work. Only lazy people need compassion, according to that myth.

Finally, our creation myth and white supremacy racism is tied to deliberate indifference.

See "What is White Supremacy?" by Elizabeth Martinez, SOA Watch blog (Close the School of the Americas)

"Every nation has a creation myth, or origin myth, which is the story people are taught of how the nation came into being. Ours says the United States began with Columbus's so-called "discovery" of America, continued with settlement by brave Pilgrims, won its independence from England with the American Revolution, and then expanded westward until it became the enormous, rich country you see today. That is the origin myth. It omits three key facts about the birth and growth of the United States as a nation. Those facts demonstrate that White Supremacy is fundamental to the existence of this country."

"A. The United States is a nation state created by military conquest in several stages...."

"B. The United States could not have developed economically as a nation without enslaved African labor..."

"C. The third major piece in the true story of the formation of the United States as a nation was the take-over of half of Mexico by war -- today's Southwest..."

Just talking about deliberate indifference is risky, in my view.