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Re: Suicide at Sea and captain charged
I've read the original account and the comments on this thread. I think the story itself is shocking, and many of the responses on the thread dismaying.
Assuming that the main facts are reported accurately, these are the key points:
• The victim was sick when he boarded. Severe foot and ankle swelling pointed towards a serious medical problem. I don't fault the captain for being unable to diagnose the nature of the medical problem, but the presence of a medical problem--not simply physical "unfitness"--was obvious
• The victim started vomiting almost immediately once they were under way. Within 24 hrs, he was hallucinating (before the scopolamine). Hallucinations aren't a sign of a bad personality or bad character--they are a sign of illness. Again, I don't fault the captain for being unable to diagnose the exact reason for the hallucinations--but he knew that he had a crew member with a baseline medical problem who was deteriorating seriously, and with no clear path to improvement.
• Here are some points that captain could not be expected to have known, but that are useful in understanding what happened: The leg swelling might have been due to vein disease in the victim's legs, but more likely pointed to kidney, liver or severe heart disease. Liver or kidney disease would have predisposed the victim to internal chemical (metabolic) abnormalities that would have been likely to affect his mental processes. Superimpose the prolonged vomiting, and he was almost certainly delirious, i.e., in a state of "reduced awareness of and responsiveness to the environment, which may be manifested as disorientation, incoherence, and memory disturbance and often marked by hallucinations, delusions, and a dream-like state". His reported behavior is completely consistent with this.
• In other words, the victim was sick, seriously so, and his confusion and behavior were not voluntary, or even primarily psychiatric in nature, but were consequences of his medical illness. Again, I don't fault the captain for being unable to diagnose the exact problem, or to be able to sort out whether it were psychiatric or medical (not that that should matter) but he knew that he had a crew member with a serious, worsening problem with a medical component to it. His failure to return to port, or to call the Coast Guard and ask for assistance with the medical emergency, were serious failures, and he is responsible for the consequences of these failures.
• Next, during the final "confrontation", the captain appears to have treated the victim as though he were dealing with a mentally competent mutineer instead of a badly confused, seriously ill, crew-member. Threats don't de-escalate such situations. "Reasoning" doesn't resolve such situations. De-escalation, seeming (if deceptive) acquiescence, and a calming approach can work, or at least buy time. The captain's conduct worsened the situation
• The failure to attempt the MOB rescue, and the other obviously deceptive measures that the captain took after the fact speak for themselves.
In sum--at least 3 major derelictions of a captain's duty, plus active deception afterwards. I won't be surprised if he is tried and convicted, and I'll have little sympathy for him.