You’re Innocent? Glad to Hear it. You’re Fired.

So the three medical students in Florida, having been cleared, apparently, of any wrongdoing, aren’t going to be allowed to work at the hospital they were driving to when the flap started.

The Miami hospital where three Muslim medical students were headed before they were detained in a 17-hour terror scare on a Florida highway says they aren’t welcome there anymore.

The head of Larkin Community Hospital said Sunday he had received more than 200 e-mails after the incident, some of them threatening.

“Obviously, nothing is final,” said Dr. Jack Michel, president and chief executive officer of Larkin. “Our primary objective is to take care of patients. I don’t know how that could be done with all this media coverage.”

The National Review Online link to this story refers to the three as “the Muslim morons stopped in Florida.” Now let’s be careful about stereotyping, shall we? Not all hard-core conservatives are religious bigots. It’s too bad that people like the NRO crowd give the rest of the lunatic fringe — many of whom are decent, patriotic Americans — a bad name.

But back to the substance. Are these men being mistreated? I can’t tell from the coverage what it was that the three were saying that set off this flap. They deny joking about 9-11, but of course they would in any case. Apparently only one person overhead them, so it’s pure he-said, she-said. They haven’t been charged with anything.

But if the head of the hospital wanted to stand up on his hind legs and say, “I believe these guys were talking about terrorist acts in a way that was either vicious or criminally irresponsible, and on that basis I don’t want them around my patients,” that would be a legitimate response: employers aren’t held to criminal-law standards of proof. But to push it all off on “media coverage” is about as low as it gets. If the three are innocent, they don’t deserve to be damaged, and the hospital, having agreed to accept them as trainees, owes it to them to stick by its deal. Or is there some part of the phrase “common decency” that Dr. Michel would like to have more carefully explained?


Faced with a lawsuit, the hospital caved, and Dr. Michel is now convinced that the three people he wanted to kick out are going to be “great doctors.” I complain about overlawyering as much as the next guy, but one advantage of living here rather than in Europe or Japan is that when institutions try to push people around, they can fight back. If you believe that the hospital would have done the right thing without the threat of litigation, I have a great investment opportunity for you in urban transportation infrastructure. Call collect.

Meantime, an underling seems to have been fired, whether for trying to help the students or for trying to get rid of them isn’t clear.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: