Research Administration

Probable Cause vs. Conscious Consent: An Open Letter to a Utah Detective and an Argument for Life

“The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.” (Derek Hawkins, Washington Post)

There have been countless discussions raised by this event. But, the most basic question on the table is this: Is probable cause of a crime enough to revoke your right to consent?

First, I want to start with the definition of life. I need to start here partly because I was an English major and I have an absurd obsession with vocabulary, but mostly because it is so very important to fully understand this basic point. Life, in its most primitive and basic form is a heart beating. Two lungs expanding and collapsing. Oxygen in its infinite race with blood. A brain that understands light from dark, hot from cold, danger from safety. This is life. You are alive. You are awake. You are aware.

Life is not the choices someone makes. It is not what they decide to do with their time. It is not their level of education, their profession, or even how they choose to define right from wrong. It is not their gender, their sex, their height or their skin color. It is a breath. It is an open eye. It is the capacity to understand.

In this country, the right of a human being to live―to be alive, awake, and aware―surpasses every other thing.

Detective, I respect and admire your fight for justice. I know that you have a dangerous and difficult job—that you risk your life to protect me. I understand that it can be a thankless job, even a scorned and mistrusted position. I appreciate your fight for honesty. I appreciate you.

But nothing, not even a true and honest fight for justice, comes before a human being’s right to life—the physical and mental state of being alive, awake, and aware.  Nothing.

If that person is truly guilty, there will be another way to prove their guilt. You do not need to violate their right of consent when they are fighting for their right to live. There will be another day to fight this battle. Human life is more important than being right.

This is the essence of our country, and the reason why I choose to live in the United States of America. It is the reason why I work at a hospital. It is the reason why I choose to spend my time working in medical research. We as a people decided that a person’s right to life is most important. We have fought long and bloody wars (we are still fighting long and bloody wars) over this very belief.

So, I return to the question on the table. A question that so many people, so much smarter than me, have struggled with and have come to this same conclusion. Is probable cause of a crime enough to revoke your right to consent? The answer is no.

Human life is more important than being right.

Article publié pour la première fois le 05/09/2017

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