The BBC just alerted me to the winner of the "wackiest warning" award for 2006.
First prize went to a washing machine that came complete with a warning not to put anyone inside....
An engine manufacturer who warned "Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level" won second prize.
Warnings not to dry wet mobile phones in microwave ovens and not to iron lottery tickets tied for third place.
Honorable mentions went to a telephone directory that advised: "Please do not use this directory while operating a moving vehicle".
The awards were made by the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch who say that the tendency of Americans to sue companies has gone too far, encouraging absurd warning labels on products. Their website also has a list of just a few "loony lawsuits," some of which are mind boggling. One of my "favorites" was a prison inmate who sued because he thought that prison food was causing flatulence and a couple who claimed that dust from a neighbor's house was "trespassing" on their home. These cases have been settled.
Given the level of frivolous lawsuits, the manufacturers of the products are unrepentant. One spokesperson said that the height of the washing machine would be just about right for a small child to climb inside. Who would not be able to read the warning label anyway. Mind you, we always check to make sure that none of our clowder of cats is lurking in the laundry before we switch on the washing machine.
All this reminded me of the annual Darwin Awards for people whose extreme lack of judgment may lead them to be removed form the gene pool.
Well this does not have much to do with our main themes of Health, Integrated Medicine, Meaning and Purpose. Or does it?
Actually it does. And not just because humor is an essential part of healthy living. It is because many people feel that there is a disconnect in our legal system: a disconnect between justice and legality. Whether dealing with the health of the body or the health of the legal system, if those two are not in harmony, we can expect for there to be problems.
We all want people to have legal protection and the right of redress, but I sometimes worry. Two cases in point. In the first a lawyer told me that he would take any case against a doctor because, as he told me, "Who cares? Nobody gets hurt and if I can get some money out the insurance company nobody loses." I know that his was an extreme minority opinion, but it worried me on several levels. I have seen what legal action can do to the most innocent of people. This individual told me that he was not interested in the consequences of his actions!
The second happened on a long flight. I was sitting next to a defense attorney who was defending someone who had admitted to a string of horrible crimes. He recognized my name, told me about a neurological defense that he was working on and asked me what I thought? I said that it was impossible to comment without seeing the records, doing interviews and so on. "But doesn't it sound like a good defense?" he persisted.
"Well on the face of it he does not have any features of that illness," I replied.
He told me that another neurologist has already said that and that he was going to ignore his report.
I found this intriguing. I asked him whether he was interested in the truth of whether or not his client had the illness. He said, "Of course not, it's my job to clear him."
And although that is, of course, his duty, all of this leads me to ask myself about common sense. And this is what the wacky warnings, the frivolous lawsuits and the letter of the law as opposed to its spirit have in common. And what all three have in common with Integrated Medicine.
Don't they all need a really good dose of common sense to thrive?
“Common sense, to most people, is nothing more than their own opinions.”
--William Hazlitt (English Writer and Essayist, 1778-1830)
“Common sense is not so common.”
--Voltaire (a.k.a. François-Marie Arouet, French Writer and Philosopher, 1694-1778)
“As a rule, only very learned and clever men deny what is obviously true. Common men have less brains, but more sense.”
--W.T. Stace (English Philosopher, Former Mayor of Colombo and, from 1932-1955, Professor at Princeton University, 1886-1967)