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On the Arrested Nurse Incident

The trending news over the weekend was the nurse who was arrested for refusing to submit to the cop’s threats and demands that she draw blood from a patient. As she stated in the video that circled the internet, the written law was on her side as medical professionals are only allowed to draw blood under the following conditions:

  1. A warrant
  2. The patient under arrest
  3. Patient consent

The majority of people rightly took the side of the nurse who was unquestionably the victim of the deranged cop’s power trip– he grabbed her, dragged her outside (to her screaming that he stop and her insistence that she had done nothing wrong), and arrested her. Uncalled for.

Since it’s easy to vocalize disapproval at the cop’s behavior in this specific case, I also have two other points to make that are more likely to have been missed by most people weighing in.

First, the nurse’s refusal to draw blood and the cop’s deranged overreaction are not right and wrong respectively on the basis that the written law was on the nurse’s side. That is to say, if the law was that cops have the authority to order medical professionals to do whatever cops tell them to, the nurse still would have been justified in refusing to draw the blood and the cop would still would be acting criminally in aggressing against her. The reason for this is that legal and criminal behavior (a subset of moral and immoral behavior), are not determined by written law but by natural law (law that transcends written laws). For example, murder is not made wrong by virtue of its being declared wrong by a legislative body or bureaucratic agency; rather, if anything, it is already unethical to murder independent of the government and it is up to the government to recognize this ethical stipulation.

Second, and related to the first point, we need to understand that cops so often aggress against people and property (as happened in this case), but there is nary a smidgeon of outrage by the same people who expressed distaste for the current event. Drug laws and their subsequent enforcement protocols are a deep-seeded implementation of criminal assault. The difference, however, is that in the current situation a) the written law was on the victim’s side and b) there has been no desensitization regarding what happened, as opposed to in the case of drug laws. Besides drug laws, of course, there are other sorts of government approved acts of violence against legally innocent (under natural law) people. All forms of eminent domain laws, anti-gun ownership laws, laws outlawing and criminalizing unapproved food production, seatbelt laws, the TSA’s daily airport assaults, and taxation itself.

In fact, every government agency consists of positive laws which control and regulate so many aspects of our lives from food/drink to insurance to education to transportation to clothing to money and banking and beyond. The police are merely the enforcement arm of the state and therefore threaten to initiate violence upon refusal of the private property owner to comply.

Thus, when the headlines say that the nurse was arrested “simply for doing her job,” we should realize that “doing one’s job” is only good if the job-duty itself is good. In this case, for the nurse, it certainly was. If her job required her to do something wrong, we would only praise her if she refused to “do her job.” On the flip side, we aren’t criticizing the cop here because he was acting outside of his job, we are criticizing him because he was acting against the strictures of ethics, of natural law. Thus, even if protocol allowed him to act as he did, he would still be in the wrong.

The news is that this cop has been placed on suspension. Such a bureaucratic response is not enough, however. He didn’t act simply against the will of his superiors– he acted in a criminal manner and should be prosecuted accordingly. Just as cops who steal drugs or give out seatbelt tickets or arrest those selling goods on the market without a business license should, if justice was actually present in our society, be prosecuted for breaching property rights.

People say that the actions of this cop give all cops a bad name. Let me clarify the matter. Any cop that initiates or threatens to initiate violence against the bodies or the external private property of individuals acts wrongly. Whether cops are good or bad adds vagueness and imprecision to the matter. We ought to keep it simple: if you breach the private property rights of individuals, natural law is not on your side. Cops do act rightly when they respond to aggressors of private property, and wrongly when they become the aggressors. This has nothing to do with the state of written law– and it is the goal of the libertarian to bring written law (also known as positive law) into compliance with natural law.

Unfortunately in our time, all cops have voluntarily agreed and sworn to uphold unethical positive laws, whether they are aware of it or not and whether they are nice and respectable people in their private lives.

Published in C.Jay Engel