Somebody is to Blame for This

We live in a horribly uncaring universe. Many things can happen that we would rather not, without having anyone to blame.

One person’s tragedy is no less tragic simply because other people are suffering the same or worse.

I’m not an expert, but it sounds to me like you need some… professional help, Jeff. I know I would probably seek it (for the first time in my life) if I had an experience as traumatic as that.

Fantastic article, Jeff. Thanks for writing.

I find it interesting in the context of a lawsuit that what is being focused on is “Somebody must be to blame for this”, and they seem to want it to be the medical personnel who treated the man. Nothing so far shows any indication they were at fault, no more than if he was run over by a bus in the parking lot while leaving.

There are lawyers around. If the medical institution is found at fault, they will get a good portion of any award. From a faceless insurance insurance company or medical corporation, yet the money has to come from somewhere so do not wonder at the expense of health care. Did the lawyers take the case because they thought they could make a rational argument or emotional appeal? Facelesscorp v.s. Widow and Orphans. Who cares about actual guilt or responsibility, it is always good to have pity on widows and orphans.

Yet the wisest thing said is “We are all to blame”. What petty or gross evil do we permit, if not encourage, if not engage in ourselves? This can be as simple and banal as treating any other human being as an object to be used instead of the subject they are. We are all wastrels but soothe our consciences by voting for the green party or banning plastic bags or some other trivial nonsense. We support some amorphous and remote programs to help the poor, not the person in distress down the street you see every day. We do not love our neighbor as ourself, we love some collective or composite remote person we will never meet and don’t want to - while they love us, as we continue to destroy, degrade, and disrespect each other.

Religion may be an opiate, but it also seems to be an anti-psychotic.

People who really believe and practice won’t lie, cheat, steal, have sex without the commitment of marriage, much less do violence, and that comes from something deep within that lets their conscience work - not merely because they might get caught or suffer some other unpleasant or painful consequence. They are usually willing to suffer evils imposed upon them without doing evils to escape. Becoming dark. Wanting everyone else to hurt. Finding scapegoats.

The best argument an atheist has is “How could a good God permit evil?” Yet here is the answer. If he didn’t permit it, none of us who have free will today would have ever existed or would quickly cease to exist.

C. S. Lewis wrote “The Problem of Pain”. More answers are there, but it is not a substitute for the virtues of courage and fortitude as he says in the introduction. And someone is to blame for all this - the Devil, Lucifer, Satan. And us to the extend we sin which is just another word for the evil, petty or gross we do at his urgings.

Beyond that, I can only offer that most can stand any what if there is a “Why”. There is a “Why”, but you have to accept it. Actually a Who and you have to accept him. Rationally. Not emotionally. Out of thought and will, not out of pain. And out of love, not hate.

I know what you mean about emotional doors that you didn’t know existed. I actually went through a ‘trial run’ of grasping my heart and collapsing.

Costochondritis is a condition that results in a (benign) inflammation of cartilage which connects almost every rib in your body. Those that had severe lung infections as children (I had a six month bout with severe Bronchitis) can experience symptoms that feel exactly like a massive heart attack at random times.

It was a typical afternoon, I was working on clearing out the moderation queue on Stack Overflow and all of a sudden, it hit (If you must know, YES, it was a very smelly question). This intense, searing pain in my chest came out of nowhere, and the blood seemed to rush out of my head. I almost collapsed, called my wife and told her I was on the way to the hospital. I’m an at home dad, our (at the time) five year old was in my care. I had to take her with me. We don’t own a car, there is no central ‘911’ where I live, so I had to get a cab. Just getting me and her out the door, to the elevator and down to the lobby where the building security guards took over was … I can’t describe it.

So there we are in a taxi, on our way and weaving through traffic. All I could think about was:

If I die right now, in this cab, what is that going to do to her? Is she going to blame herself? We’re in a TAXI, what happens if I pass out our worse? My kid is with me and I don’t even know this guy driving the cab …

I then realized that I was going into a state of shock, which I later learned was broadly due to the emotional reaction I was having. Being wheeled into the ER and immediately listed as a cardiac patient was ironically the biggest relief of my life. We made it, my wife knew where we were, nurses were looking after my kid and I didn’t die in front of her.

I went through lots of poking, prodding, tests, x-rays, tons of wires hooked up to me, oxygen, the works. They could not find a damn thing wrong with me. I finally saw an attending who asked me if I ever had a bad cough or lung infection as a kid and I said yes. He immediately smiled and told me that my body played a very cruel trick on me, gave me some meds to deal with it and sent me home.

The shock wore off a little more than a day later. The emotions brought on by what I thought was the very real possibility of dying in front of my kid while leaving her in a stranger’s care just immediately put my brain on auto pilot.

Many Buddhists that I know imagine, in small chunks their loved ones not being there any longer, or not being there for them during daily meditation. This is done so that if such a scenario directly happened or you experience it in some way, it isn’t completely foreign to you and you stand a better chance of avoiding the mindlessness that comes with shock.

Looks like you’re going through something rather healthy. Thanks for sharing it so eloquently.

I think Jeff is leaving a little too much room for reading between the lines on the “Someone must be to blame” statements. It is the natural reaction to seek accountability in these situations. I choose to read the underlying message as acknowledging this desire for accountability while understanding that there is not always someone to blame. Without knowing more about the case and its outcome I don’t think we can pass judgment on whether this is a case of out of control American litigation, outright negligence and malpractice, or somewhere in between. It is a subtle message especially if English is not the reader’s first language. Lacking more information, the message isn’t about judgment and blame but rather about the human condition.

I would not like to be on your shoes.

This whole thing is really emotional exhaustive and you have been forced to deal with questions that would require a quiet and peaceful place or even a lifetime of thinking and not a “just do it” approach.

One cannot be impartial on those things, unless it is Vulcan or Borg.

Take a break of all of this things and enjoy your life. I think you have no other option…

Live long and prosper.

@Pat James

If you immediately seek to find others to antagonize for something that happened, you are an apprentice in life.

If you immediately look within yourself prior to seeking others to antagonize for something that happened, you are a journeyman in life.

If you immediately realize that antagonizing anything for something that happened isn’t going to help and ultimately find a better way of fixing something that is broken, you’re naturally happy in life and don’t care about much else.

I’m somewhere between 1 and 2 according to consistency.

Thank you for sharing Jeff. Seriously, thank you.

As software professionals or computer enthusiasts we love to carve the world up into smaller and smaller digital slices and binary decisions. The real “analog” world is rarely so simple. Personally, I find it difficult to understand our emotions, feelings and reactions - let alone share them with others. Kudos to you for being able to write your experiences down in an approachable way for others.

It is interesting to me see how this story affects each of your virtual friends. I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the “colder” comments of abusing the legal system with emotional manipulation and I am simultaneously touched by the sympathy and support extended by others - myself included.

You share a name with my older brother who passed away tragically a few years back - something I still wrestle with. He is one of my heroes. Just like the dad in your experience reading to his son. This world needs more heroes - not less. And yet it seems no one can escape this tragic event.

I draw strength and support like Robert Shelline does - from - Next time two young men or women knock on your door, please invite them in for a discussion. I am certainly not asking you (or anyone reading this blog) to convert or even expecting you to… I just can just relate my own personal experience that it has made a real difference in my life. Particularly in dealing with things that don’t fall into those inconveniently sized digital buckets we love to use.

Jeff the story with Anthony Griffith didn’t end there. Take a look

What if Somebody is not to Blame for This? What if the doctors did everything correctly as well as we know with current medicine? If they did everything right, but it still went wrong, then no one is to blame. Bad things just happen, even to good people, even with families.

The family being dragged in makes sense from the point of view of the person bringing the suit. It pulls at the heart strings, which helps open the purse strings, but it does not in any way affect whether or not the physicians were at fault or committed malpractice. I also have a hard time thinking that it adjusts the value of his life. That is a great unknown. Had he survived, what would his contributions to society been? You were in a very hard place. I am glad I did not have to help make that kind of decision.

I follow this blog regularly, thankfully because of the video content it was blocked at work so I had to wait till I got home to turn into a blubbering mass.

Kudos Jeff, having lost my mother earlier this year to cancer (though she would dispute the semantics of that), and having 2 kids, it was a slap in the face with a wet fish to watch that video.

Reality checks like this do us all power of good.

Thanks Tom – great coda by Anthony Griffith, the comedian in the first video:

“I look at life as if it’s a great novel that you’re reading. And it’s so great that it’s a page turner. And the star of that book is you. And you turn the next page and the main character loses his daughter. But it’s so compelling, you keep going.”

“Do you ever just want to close the book for a while?”

“No. Because it’s so thrilling. Because this book is making you cry, laugh, get mad, get angry, that you keep going, you keep going, because I want to see what’s the end.”

It’s just a ride.

Thanks for your insightful and captivating writing.
Thanks for showing me how lucky I am.
Thanks for sharing.

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for sharing that.

As a father of a 5 year old and a lucky husband of a wife with cancer in remission, this really hits home.

I was reminded of a TED talk by a French Buddhist monk who was talking about the two great philosophies in humanity. The Buddhist philosophy which was about inner peacefullness and consistent happiness and the French existentialism which was about embracing (and accentuating) passionately the highs and lows in life.

I’m not sure if there’s a right way.
Go donate!

The reasons all of those people are there in courts Jeff and emotionally describe the loss are:

  1. For every one to realize what a huge loss it was to a family and possibly a generation. We just say that we feel bad about it. But it is a huge difference when faced yourself.

  2. If it was a malpractice, or there is any chance of improvement in procedures which can prevent this from happening or at least reduce the chances of such events, it is worth every minute of the efforts.

An amazing post, thanks for sharing.

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for sharing. I have another kid on the way, and I feel that the vulnerability of it all just becomes clear to you when you experience a loss like that. Second or thirdhand. Doesn’t matter. I could see myself on the floor breaking down to the thought of what if … Not that I normally think like that.

Again … Thanks for sharing. Lean into the pain.


We as humans have so much control over our lives these days, when something happens out of our control, we automatically assume SOMEONE was in control. That’s fallacious, at-best, most of the time. Shit happens. We never blame anyone when good happenstance occurs, but we definitely want to blame someone when bad things happen. It’s just life. We don’t control it. It just happens and if you live through it, then you get to deal with it.

I’m not trying to sound heartless, but dwelling on things you have absolutely no control over, and worse yet, things that have already happened and cannot be changed, fixes nothing and changes nothing, except perhaps one’s own perspective on the world, possibly for the worse. Move on. Enjoy the good things. Soon your life will be over. You don’t want to die having spent your life mourning over the bad events.