Monday, 15 November 2010

Ethical Science And Charities, Or: The Manager Infestation

Ethics are a main topic of discussion, in which everyone likes to claim the high ground. Science, especially medical, is a fertile ground for these debates. Science and technology enables, and large groups of people desperately try to push back the genie into its bottle over and over again. Instead of reasonable debate here we usually see irrational versus rational behaviour. One group acts upon their 'instincts', whereas the other uses logical reasoning. This is the reason why people who call themselves 'pro-life' can end up committing terroristic bombings and assassinations. Irrationality can be a scary thing.

Another fine example of irrationality is embodied into a group of people who seem to be multiplying faster than rabbits during a fertile season: managers.

Don't get me wrong, some level of management is necessary in any sizeable project and company, but this type is special. They are the ones who lack any qualifications for the work they're managing, are okay with getting paid four, ten, or even twenty times more than the average employee in the company or organization and their position is, when viewed rationally, wholly redundant or can be scaled down significantly. Meet the Manager Infestation.

One example of this infestation I read about a short while ago, with an article on what managers at the Dutch Cancer Organization get paid: around 200,000 Euro/year, or roughly 8-10 times as much as a well-paid employee here in the Netherlands. If you consider that all this organization is supposed to do is allocate donations to worthy projects and providing education to the public, then one can begin to wonder where these managers can show their worth. If there are even just five of such manager types being paid 200k/Euro a year, that's still 1 million which gets largely paid from, you guess it, donations.

Also outrageous was the recent series of bonuses given to top managers at certain large banks here in the Netherlands during the economical crisis. While they had to be supported financially by the government, and employees were being fired or had their pay reduced. If this isn't a sickness I'm not sure what is. Ethical it sure isn't.

Moving on to medical grounds, we can see a bureaucracy where managers have gummed up the wheels, making everything cost ten times as much as it used to, while making everything a hundred times less efficient. Here in the Netherlands this really began to happen after a previous, wonderful government decided to fully privatize healthcare in this country, because it would 'promote competition among hospitals'. Instead within a year or two the number of managers on each level of hospital management as well as at other care centers has more than quadrupled, with no appreciable increase in efficiency. This is the point where an ethical government should step in and end this crazy experiment.

Finally I would like to address another pet peeve of mine: terminal patients and drug trials. It's not uncommon for there to be apparently very successive new therapies and drugs for terminal diseases like aggressive cancers, degenerative diseases and more, yet these remain stuck in red tape for many years while they're being tested for 'safety' and effectiveness. Meanwhile there are patients out there who know that they'll die from such a disease sometimes in less than a year and are more than willing to volunteer for such a therapy or drug if it means that it would accelerate the approval process, and save lives that way.

Their requests are denied by the medical 'ethics' commission, which deny those people their last chance to really do something for others. If that is ethical, then I'm pretty sure we should review the meaning of what unethical means as well. In a sense, one can see this medical ethics commission together with the general medical bureaucracy as another example of Manager Infestation, where so many managers manage to clog the mechanism with useless meetings, rules and protocols while sucking out much-needed resources until everything just grinds to a halt.

When talking about nano technology there's the 'grey goo' nightmare scenario. I'd propose that we devise an equally catchy term for a world overrun by managers, in which nothing can exist either as it'll be managed to death.


No comments: