On Trial For Manslaughter For Failing to Predict Earthquake

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by scheherazade, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. Pete It's not rocket surgery Moderator

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    No, they did not.

    At least one member of the committee (not a scientist) made inaccurate public statements on at least one occasion saying that "There is no danger."

    But:
    CBCnews
    According to the commission's memo, issued one week before the big quake, the experts concluded that it was "improbable" that there would be a major quake though it added that one couldn't be excluded.

    Afterward, members of the commission gave reassuring interviews to local media stressing the impossibility of predicting quakes and that even six months worth of low-magnitude temblors was not unusual in the highly seismic region and didn't mean a big one was coming.

    I suspct the verdict will be overturned at appeal.
     
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Highly likely. The chief administrator (not a scientist) of the agency concerned with earthquakes has resigned, saying the agency can no longer function as qualified scientists will not work there, etc.
     
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  5. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    One part of the problem, IMO, is that 'Scientists' are less and less qualified to function professionally. The training of PhDs went through a period where only people who truly loved science would waste their time being a scientist (as there wasn't much of a career in it) and these were excellent professional scientists. But then something happened. Academia became a 'good life' where getting a pair of hands in the lab and treating them like bench monkey's led to hundreds of thousands of less qualifies so-called 'professional' Scientists. These then started training the next round of scientists and it is these people whose lack of appreciation of some of the basic principals of science is sort of surprising.

    You on't NEED to know what independent and dependent variables are to be published in Nature (I know someone who was recently published in Nature and he specifically said he couldn't remember 'Statistics' and it didn't really matter).

    And there you go. A public who thinks "The Professionals" know best. A group of "Professionals" who also think they know best. And then there's a real live quake - it actually doesn't care what we think.
     
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  7. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Damn Michael that's a very negative assessment about scientists in general. If I didn't know anything about you I say you were a conservative republican.

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    I'd like to see some of the key trial transcripts before I made any comments for or against the scientists in question. But I sure couldn't make comments about all scientists based on what happened in Italy.
     
  8. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    As I have pointed out to you, it must be a dozen times now, there was only one person that said there was no risk and that advice was contrary to the advice he was given by the seismologists who were prosecuted along side him.
     
  9. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    I've pointed this out several times in this thread. Asguard was told that over a year ago when I summarized the various arguments I had presented to him at that point to illustrate how his assertions were based on fallacies.
     
  10. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    The problem was not with the science.

    The science said that at the time there was nothing to suggest an increased likelyhood of a large earthquake.

    One of the points that I have made in this thread is that it has been shown that the nature of the seismic activity changed between the press conference and the main shock. But that's not something that you'll see discussed in the media. Likewise, you also won't see it discussed in the media that as much as ten years before the earthquake, the local and central government knew:
    - That Abbruzio was at higher risk of a large shake than had been previously anticipated.
    - In the event of a large quake, l'Aquilla would be subjected to greater shaking than had been previously anticipated.
    - In the event of a large quake, exactly which buildings would collapse.

    And they chose to do nothing about any of this.
     
  11. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    I feel compelled to point something out.

    Bernado de Bernadinis, the individual who chose the unfortunate words at the press conference, has a degree in civil engineering, a PhD in fluid mechanics, and taught as a Professor in hydraulics between something like 1986 and 1999 (not 100% sure, the translation I have of his CV is a bit hard to follow in places).

    Luciano Maiani, the head of the commission of grand risks, is a physicist, and co-authored the GIM Mechanism.
    Mauro Dolce, the "Director of Assessment, prevention and mitigation of seismic risk", the other commission member who resigned, was a Professor or Earthquake and has been involved in teaching and research at University of Basilicata, from 1994 to 2006.

    I must confess, however, that I'm not entirely sure who you are referring to in this instance. Perhaps you could clarify?
     
  12. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

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    my appology, this is a 13 page thread resurected after a year, i was going off what i could remeber not what every indervidual wrote in here.

    Fair enough, it was one person who said it and x number of people who stood by and said nothing. In some countries staying silent in that sort of situation maybe ok, Italy its probably not. To be honest I have less symathy for those involved in this than i do for that air trafic contoler who was charged and convicted of manslaughter because his bosses had neglected to teach him about the airport he was supposed to adminster, had shut down all the saftey equiptment which was supposed to help him do his job and then when 2 planes ended up on the same runway in foggy conditions so they crashed he got blamed. That was unfair and wrong

    However staying silent when you know the public has been given crap infomation is also wrong, was manslaughter a harsh punishment? yes but its not an unreasonable one. If i stand back and dont report a risk at work Im liable if a member of the public or another staff member gets hurt under the work cover act, if a doctor failed to notifie a patient of the risks when being made awear that another doctor had given false infomation then I would expect they would be held liable too and I dont see why its unreasonable to expect that knowing italian law (as they should) they will be held criminally liable for there work if it breaches certain rules that they shouldnt be held to account simply because thats not how things are done in other countries like the US. Thats what it boils down to, after seeing other situations and there results recently I dont think this is a one off situation but rather is or should be a well known conquence of certain actions
     
  13. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    As Trippy pointed out.

    Why weren't they prosecuted? After all they knew there were unsafe buildings and had time to take action to save lives.
     
  14. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

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    That would be up to there version of the DPP, just because one person isnt charged doesnt invalidate charges against someone else. What would a judge in the US say if a defendent got up and said "i should be found not guilty because he did it to and he wasnt charged" doubt it would go down well with the judge
     
  15. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    My guess is simple and straightforward: The "trial" had nothing at all to do with science OR responsibility - it was all politically motivated. The local government, prosecutors, judge, politicians, etc. HAD to find someone to blame to take the heat off themselves for having done nothing in advance to prevent the loss of life and property damage. There's no doubt the local population was OUTRAGED so these officials were doing nothing but attempting to save their own skins through this sham of a "trial."
     
  16. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Not predicting an earthquake is not in the same class as knowing something is unsafe and choosing to do nothing about it. Also, there is whoever is first able to prevent an accident and does not act, is the guilty party. If you were part of a team of scientists and you disagreed with your boss about the degree of danger, are you going to risk losing your job by making a public announcement that the towns population is in imminent danger? I think not. I don't think anybody would under those same circumstances.
     
  17. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    Apology not accepted, the post I linked to was one of two posts immediately above scheherazade's, and would have been visible to you at the time you posted as long as you have more than eight posts per page visible.

    In Italy, a seismologist can be prosecuted for predicting an earthquake that fails to appear and Boscio, one of the seimologists that has been prosecuted had previously had charges brought against him for making just such a failed forecast. The prosecution may have failed, however, that in and of itself sets a strong legal imperative to remain silent. Again, I pointed all of this out last year.

    He was out of his depth. He should have recognized that he was out of his depth and acted accordingly.

    As I said to you last year, in Italy, what you're proposing he should have done could also have resulted in a criminal conviction.

    Consider the following points:
    -Boscio had previously predicted a high probability of a large shake in another area. This prediction was based on a statistical analysis.
    -As a result of that prediction, an evacuation was performed.
    -As a result of both of the above, charges were bought against Boscio for creating un-neccessary panic. Whether or not the charges were successful is beside the point.
    -At the time of press conference, as far as Boscio knew, and could reasonably have known, the risk of a large earthquake was no larger than it had been nearly every other day for the past 330 off years since the last time l'Aquilla had been flattened by a similarly sized shake.

    Consider, also, the following points, see if you, or anyone else can spot the absurdity:
    -The charges were laid by a member of the public who lost relatives.
    -The person laying the charges has said that if his family had been correctly informed of the risk of a large shake, they would have taken measures such as sleeping in their car.
    -At the time of the press conference, the correct advice was "No higher risk than on any other day of your life" - or "Go about your lives normally".

    Can you see it yet? Can you see why I think your position is absurd in the extreme?

    Setting aside, for a moment, the pedantism involved in analysing the advice to the extent that has been done here?

    As far as anybody could reasonably have known, at the time of the press conference, there was no elevated risk of a large shake. The risk of a large earthquake, at that time was the same as it had been 12 months ago or ten years ago. So the correct advice was "Don't panic, go about your lives normally, there's no more risk than usual", but, the charges have been laid by someone who lost loved ones because they went about their lives normally.

    Does it make sense yet? Is it any clearer why this whole thing is a farce and an exercise in blame shifting?
     
  18. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    The charges were laid by a member of the public that lost loved ones in the shake because they followed the only advice they could have been given - go about your lives normally.
     
  19. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    This also was explained to Asguard by me last year. I have first hand experience of this, I work for a political organization in a science based role that sees me carrying out law enforcement.
     
  20. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    There's another point that Asguard didn't get twelve months ago and still, apparently, hasn't grasped.

    It's why every analogy he has posited is flawed to the point of being useless.

    If I go to my Dr to get a Verucca burned of my foot, and I ask my Dr "Could I have a heart attack because of this procedure?" and the Dr says "No, you have no risk of a heart attack." So I go home, live my life normally for a week, and die of a heart attack.

    Should my family then turn around and prosecute my Dr manslaughter because he failed to correctly inform me of the 0.1% background risk of having a heart attack?

    And that's why every analogy presented so far by Asguard has been flawed to the point of being useless - because they deal with situations where there is an elevated risk of something happening, but, at the time of a press conference, there was no elevated risk, it was at what constitutes background levels in Abbruzio.
     
  21. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

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    Yes actually, there was a case in Australia where a patient who was blind in one eye had surgery to fix that eye. Insted she lost the sight in her other eye, a very rare conquences of the surgery. The doctor argued as you have that it was so rare and that no other doctor would have given her that Infomation, that he was acting acording to the rules of his profession.

    Guess what the high court ruled? Not that he was negligent in his treatment but that he failed to give the patient the chance to make an infomed choice because even though the chances were tiny the risk was there, was known to be there and as a patient who had already lost one eye, the risk to the second would have been held at a much higher regard than any other member of the public

    Rodgers v Whitaker is a fundermental ruling on informed consent and is compleatly separate from the rules governing treatment so is quite applicable here.

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/s...ml?stem=0&synonyms=0&query= Rogers v Whitaker

    Why should a goverment expert panel be held to a lesser standed than a doctor?
     
  22. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Common knowledge that all people who live in an earthquake zone are aware of. The only thing that can be done is to prepare for the worst at any time. Making scientists into scapegoats for something they really had no control over, creates a far greater problem than a few deaths from an earthquake. Suddenly becoming an underpaid scientists is not looking like a very good thing to become.

    The thing is the people knew what could happen at any time, and had they been told they would not have left, because they would know predicting earthquakes can't be done with any reliable accuracy. So they instead shoot themselves in the foot by making students in there country fear becoming a scientists.
     
  23. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    I've been saying that for the last twelve months, and nothing has happened in that time to change that opinion.

    But it's more than that, Asguard has just perfectly, and I imaging unwittingly, illustrated the point that I was trying to make in the first place.

    Observe.

    Hold up Don Quixote, those are men of straw. Go back and re-read what I actually said.

    If I go to my Dr to get a Verucca burned of my foot, and I ask my Dr "Could I have a heart attack because of this procedure?" and the Dr says "No, you have no risk of a heart attack." So I go home, live my life normally for a week, and die of a heart attack.

    Should my family then turn around and prosecute my Dr manslaughter because he failed to correctly inform me of the 0.1% background risk of having a heart attack?​


    The important part in that sentence is background risk. Perhaps I could have been a little clearer, but I thought it was fairly obvious.

    Background risk is not risk as a result of the procedure, it's the risk I live with every day. In any given year I have a 0.1% risk of suffering a myocardial infarction before adjusting for factors such as diet and lifestyle. If I had meant "0.1% risk as a result of the procedure, I would have said that".

    But that's the point that you're missing or ignoring, and why every analogy you have provided in this conversation, and every piece of case law you have provided is completely irrelevant, including this:

    Because they all deal with scenarios where some event has occured that increases the risk of a subsequent event.

    But that wasn't the case here. At the time of the press conference all of the information indicated that they were dealing with the same 0.002% risk of a large shake that they had dealt with every other week since 1315, when the last big shake flattened the city. That risk didn't change until something like 10 hours before the earthquake, when the nature of the earthquake swarm changed:
    -The ratio of the magnitudes changed
    -The geographic location of the earthquakes changed
    -The frequency of the earthquakes changed.

    However, at the time of the press conference, there was no greater risk than there had been any other day in nearly 700 years.

    And I'm not sure how to make it any clearer than that.
     

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