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Felons and Doctors

29 January, 2008; 21:19 Leave a comment Go to comments

Can they be the same?

In the same city where “Stockholm Syndrome” was born (one month before I was), another case has come up recently that pushes the boundaries of what can be expected from the redemption of a criminal. And this case, for me, highlights some differences between the Swedish way of handling the situation, and the American way. Now, I’m referring to how things actually seem to happen, but on both sides of the Arctic there is probably a lot of disapproval by the citizens themselves of how the situation might be handled. Plus, this is just one case. But it’s enough to rattle one about going to the doctor.

The essence of the case revolves around a man who was convicted in 2000 of a hate-crime murder, served 6 1/2 years of an 11 year sentence, and got out on parole. Then he changed his name, took some online pre-med courses, and got into Karolinska Institute (KI), the top medical school in Sweden. This year, partway through the year, word got out that there was a convicted murderer at the school. This spurred some discussions at KI, but no action, because there were no legal grounds for doing anything…and it may not even be clear whether there would be moral grounds for it. Interestingly, this happened with relatively little coverage by the Swedish press, and what press coverage there was did not make an explicit connection between the original murder case, which was widely reported on at the time, and the present case of the felon doctor.

But why am I telling you all this, when you can read it for yourself…in the New York Times. Last week there was a news story reporting that the student was expelled from KI—on technical grounds relating to his transcripts—and then today there was a special report in the medical section of the Times, investigating this further. They’re worth a read, especially the second one.

Ultimately, the article seems to show that, while there are differences in both the laws and the customs in Sweden and the U.S. for how criminals pasts are reconciled with the medical profession, in neither country does there seem to be a clear moral framework for what ought to be done.

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