Be Prepared to Talk about the Newtown School Shooting

December 19, 2012

Your staff will likely ask you about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. We are the ones they ask for everything, so be prepared for the question “why?”

They will most certainly ask you, if they haven’t already. Why did the Connecticut tragedy have to happen? Why the senseless rage? Why the killing? Why innocent children who have never hurt anyone?

It’s only natural that that our families, friends and peers will ask us.

But it’s even more expected that our staffs will ask us because we are the ones they always ask for everything. How thick should the slices be? How much contrast to inject? What do I do about this GFR? What about that allergy, or is it really an allergy? Is this the right test? Maybe we should be doing an MRI instead. What do you think is wrong?

We are the ones that hold the greatest responsibility in the department. We have the most education and usually are the most highly compensated. And generally most of us have been quite vocal about our feelings and positions on any number of issues or events over the years. Most of us have freely offered our opinions on just about any topic.

So get ready. There will be as many opinions as there are radiologists. Some will be widely endorsed as reasonable explanations. Others will be discounted as too radical, reactionary or simply as being totally wrong and missing the entire point.

The point is that we will be asked and we should have something to say because they are looking to us for answers or explanations.

To outlaw all guns because people were killed with assault weapons makes about as much sense as outlawing CT scanners because they deliver killing radiation. To blame the high divorce rate for promoting isolation of individuals flies in the face of all the successful single or remarried parents that work for us every day. To condemn the internet is ludicrous when we sit at our workstations or monitors and review electronic images, some from as far away as the other side of the world. To ban knives because we see daily trauma scans for penetrating wounds would be as ridiculous as preventing interventional radiologists from using scalpels since an artery could be nicked.

So we come back to why. It’s because many in our society have forgotten all of the ways in which we have been blessed and have lost touch with the reality of being responsible for our actions.

When we shift the accountability for any individual or collective action away from humans onto inanimate objects or concepts, we allow all kinds of consequences. For instance, by displacing the blame for shootings from the shooter to the weapon, not only do we fail to protect future victims who might have been spared if proper safeguards or protective measures had been in place, but we also fail to help individuals who might become future shooters themselves. Because we as a society may not want to force people to do things that most of us realize are appropriate and for the collective good, we as a society enable catastrophes to occur.

Perhaps assault weapons should be outlawed. Perhaps video games that endorse killing without a sense of reality or accountability should be banned. Perhaps we need to listen to our mental health leaders and commit to greater research and study of a growing problem that cannot be simply fixed by more medication or big pharmacy. Perhaps television/movie media and we as a society need to curb our insatiable appetite for viewing-pleasure violence that is superficially dismissed by the pundits but which causes deep psychological upheaval in young viewers. Perhaps we as a society need to comes to grips with the reality that we cannot always have what we want whenever we want it without some people having to give up some of the things that they think they can always have at whatever cost to society.

Think it through carefully and choose your words wisely because they will certainly ask you “Why?”