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The Prudent Person Principle

Posted Monday, September 19, 2011, at 10:08 AM

Somewhere is the mystic shadow nonchalantly referenced as my youth someone taught me a legal theory called "the Prudent Person Principle." While generally applied to fiduciary responsibility, the Principle applies in much of life's decision making.

Wikipedia ("if it's on the Internet it must be true") has this to say: "The reasonable person standard holds: each person owes a duty to behave as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances. While the specific circumstances of each case will require varying kinds of conduct and degrees of care, the reasonable person standard undergoes no variation itself."

As the mind mysteriously does, mine went to the Prudent Person Principle on the Friday evening before Labor Day as I went out to lock the car. Suddenly, without any discernable provocation or predisposition, I once again had chest pain. It took Kay about 15 hours (OK, maybe it really was only 15 minutes) to realize I hadn't returned and notice me sitting on the car's hood.

Let's just say I have had enough experience with such symptoms to know the difference between acid reflux and angina pain. This was the latter. On the other hand, been there -- done that. About 9 times out of 10 a nitro pill and a little rest are all the doctor would order. If I rushed to the ER every time chest pain presented, they could build a new wing at St. Vincent Clay.

What does the Prudent Person do? Wait and see.

By 2 p.m., Sunday it was evident the Prudent Person Principle demanded someone with more sophisticated medical knowledge make the next decision.

Kay took me to St. Vincent Clay Hospital where, as always, I was quickly seen and well treated. Being prudent people themselves, it took all of 10 minutes to decide on shipping me off to Union Hospital.

Here I must respectfully interject my own opinion about the healing hand of Jesus. He can, will, and does heal people miraculously, immediately, and completely. But, in this observation, in the United States of America mostly He uses doctors -- if you do what they tell you to do. The Prudent Person, having asked for assistance, must, in this opinion, catch the bus for Terre Haute.

The Prudent Person plans prudently for predictable predicaments. Knowing this day would come (had come more than once before), I had made an affirmative decision years ago I would trust my life and being to one Dr. Elias Dalloul, cardiologist at Providence Medical Center. I trusted, as a Prudent Person must, that it was Dr. Dalloul whom God had provided to see to my care. In the end this is all the Prudent Person can decide: This is what God wants me to do.

Nothing relieves Prudent Person perplexity as quickly as hearing "we know what is wrong and we know what to do about it."

Thus this would-be Prudent Person left the hospital with good news and bad:

The good news -- being prudent got me my very own personal Defibrillator!

The bad news -- being prudent got me my very own personal Defibrillator!

The Chaplain's office brought a copy of Our Daily Bread, which includes a read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year program. Have read the Bible a few times before, but may give it another go-around. The Prudent Person Principle presumes a prudent preparation for the predictable (and permanent) predicament.

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My view from the back pew
David L. Lewis
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