Commentary on Higurashi and Macer: Psychiatric Ethics and Transportation Ethics

- Hisanori Higurashi and Darryl Macer
- Yeruham Frank Leavitt, Ph.D.

Chairman, The Centre for Asian and International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001), 42.

In many countries today, the involuntary hospitalization of psychiatric patients is quite difficult. Many things which were once regarded as mental illness are now regarded as simply unusual behavior. Political and social deviancy are tolerated more than they once were. It is almost impossible in Israel and many other places to commit a patient to a mental institution against one's will unless one clearly endangers oneself or others. Indeed if one endangers only oneself and not others, it is even harder to get legal approval for commitment.

But certainly people who excessively violate traffic laws and endanger others -- especially when such driving can be shown to result from psychiatric causes like ego-enhancement, the desire to create an illusion of macho-ism (as if a fat foot on the accelerator pedal were evidence of vigour), venting one's anger, etc. -- seem clearly to be covered by existing psychiatric legislation in most if not all countries, and these drivers should be put in mental institutions.

Indeed they seem to fit accepted criteria of mental illness more appropriately than do others -- like those who express strange and radical political views, go around nude in public, or think that demons are pursuing them (perhaps an unwarranted hypothesis, but then many other scientific hypotheses and theological doctrines have been equally unwarranted). Yet people in these quite harmless categories have been put in straitjackets. At the same time most traffic extremists, if they are apprehended at all, at most pay a fine or have their licenses suspended for a while.

Not only do traffic extremists endanger others, even those who drive quite legally harm others through pollution and the environmental harm caused by roads, etc. Some of this data is cited by Higurashi and Macer. And this harm to environmental health is not just "endangering", ie creating a statistical likelihood (of less than 100%) of harm, but actually harming. So a mild and gentle, law-abiding driver who drives, say 700 kilometers per week in daily commuting, studiously obeying all traffic laws, and giving courtesy to other drivers, harms others more than, and should perhaps be put in the mental institution before, a "crazy" driver who drives only 100 kilometers per week, but does so at 200 kph and is caught and ticketed before causing any accident.

Of course Higurashi and Macer are right when they say that "the ethics of people's heart and their actions are different when it comes to transportation". I drive a car every day. (I can explain my excuses over sushi and sake at the next TRT) And sometimes I drive too fast. But then I never said I wasn't crazy.

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