Some rules are made to be broken

Reading about the occasional kerfuffles over non-responses from ED staff that have occurred on hospital properties, I was thinking about how we live in a world full of rules and many of these rules are really stupid and pointless.

Ever see A Few Good Men?

And then there’s this exchange:

Lt. Kendrick: Lance Corporal Dawson was given a below-average rating because he had committed a crime.

Lt. Kaffee: A crime? What crime did he commit? Lieutenant Kendrick? Dawson brought a hungry guy some food… what crime did he commit?

Kendrick: He disobeyed an order!

Kaffee: And because he did, because he exercised his own set of values, because he made a decision about the welfare of a Marine that was in conflict with an order of yours, he was punished. Is that right?

Kendrick: Lance Corporal Dawson disobeyed an order!

Kaffee: Yeah, it wasn’t a real order, was it? After all, it’s peace time. He wasn’t being asked to secure a hill or advance on a beach head. I mean, surely a Marine of Dawson’s intelligence can be trusted to determine, on his own, which are the really important orders and which orders might, say, be morally questionable? Lieutenant Kendrick? Can he? Can Dawson determine on his own which orders he’s going to follow?

Kendrick: No, he cannot.

Some years ago we were driving along some dark street in the middle of the night, trying to mind our own business, as overworked medics always do. Of course, by ourselves, we came across an overturned car. Of course, this overturned car had several people trapped in it. Of course, the only way out of the car was up against a concrete pillar. And of course, the engine compartment had just begun to burn.

As my partner tried to figure out a way out for these people, I walked slowly toward the ambulance, the voices in my head arguing with each other.

“I may be able to put it out with the extinguisher.”

“But agency rules say that extinguisher is only for the ambulance. Besides, we’re also not allowed to put out car fires.”

“I know.”

“You know it’s a tiny extinguisher too, right?”


“If you use it, there’s going to be paperwork.”

“Yeah, but if I don’t use it, these people are all going to burn before the fire department gets here, and there’s going to be A LOT of paperwork.”

I put out the fire.

5 thoughts on “Some rules are made to be broken”

  1. Pissed off the Firefighters didn’t you? In my 19 years as a paramedic my partners and I have doused two car fires with the extinguisher in the ambulance. Sure we called for fire first but each time when they arrived we had it out. They really hate getting out of bed for extinguished car fires.

  2. I fell down in front of a teaching hospital with ER, after a visit to ortho doc re a broken patella. Of course, the fall re-broke the kneecap and blew out the knee, but I had to wait 15 minutes for an ambulance instead of hoisting myself into a wheelchair to go directly to ER… policy rules!

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