Dr. Iggy Agbayani’s (Dr. Iggy) case is a one-off. Fortunately for lawyers and doctors alike, the decision of the lower court, which became final due to a sheer technicality via an unsigned extended resolution (UER), did not necessarily establish a case precedent. In a nutshell, this was a case of a supposed “reckless” doctor handled by a supposed “reckless” lawyer. Sued by Atty. Saul Hofilena for reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries, Dr. Iggy was subsequently sentenced and imprisoned. His colleagues in the medical profession consider the outcome a “travesty of justice,” as Dr. Iggy died in jail, four and a half months into his confinement. To Dr. Iggy’s prejudice, the substance of the verdict did not pass through the accumulated wisdom of experienced magistrates.
Some legal pundits would consider the seeming recklessness of Agbayani’s lawyer in failing to comply with the procedural requirements for an appeal as the ultimate cause for Iggy’s demise. However, without going through the merits of accusations against the late doctor, there had to be some negligence if not recklessness along the way, either in the medical procedure or in the legal process! From a medical point of view, I learned from a doctor-friend that bacterial infection is not a common occurrence after surgery.
In the remote cases that there would be one, it had to be some supervening event, likely against the established rules in the medical procedure. From a legal standpoint, a UER is more of an exception than the general rule. Negligence of counsel is just as uncommon as negligence of a doctor. In an earlier column in a different publication, Justice Artemio Panganiban, a self-proclaimed liberal jurist, said that if he was still a sitting Justice, he would have voted to remand the case to the lower courts for a trial. The issue as to whether the arthroscope used was indeed sterilized was not extensively scrutinized since the Supreme Court strictly adhered to the judicial policy of dismissing an appeal for failing to append the required pleadings and documents.
In any organization, rules are made for all members to observe for the preservation of order. As such, members of the Bar and bench are required to abide by the Rules of Court within the jurisprudential realm. Doctors, particularly surgeons, are bound to take all reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of unintended consequences. An honest mistake or error in judgment can still be defensible, but a case of negligence, or worse, recklessness, should not be. In case members of the organizations fail to exercise a reasonable amount of diligence in adhering to rules, then order is lost, and the system fails.
In some jurisdictions, recklessness occurs when a person, fully aware of a substantial risk or danger in doing a certain act, still unjustifiably takes the risk and causes damage or injury to himself or another. For instance, texting while driving is reckless since traffic rules require full attention on the road while driving. Falling in love with a married person is reckless for obvious reasons. An investor who buys stocks without any knowledge about the company is reckless and will probably lose his investment. A health professional that fails to sterilize surgical equipment, against the universally recognized protocol, will probably endanger his patient unnecessarily. A legal counsel who fails to follow judicial rules will expose his client to unnecessary risk of an adverse decision. Such acts of recklessness should not be countenanced, except perhaps in one instance.
In Cory Asbury’s worship song, “Reckless Love,” some of the lyrics went like this—“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” This “reckless love” summed up the parable of the lost sheep as narrated by Jesus Christ—“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Matthew 15:4). Taken in isolation, the act of a shepherd abandoning 99 sheep for the sake of finding one appears to be reckless, if not radically against “rules of the shepherd,” if there was one. After all, leaving 99 behind, unprotected, may lead to the loss of the significant majority of the flock. Yet, Jesus continued, “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ (Matthew 15:5-6). From another angle, the parable can be seen as a classic example of risk and reward where the shepherd is rewarded with 100 percent all accounted sheep by risking 99 for the sake of saving one. From the perspective of a believer, that “risky act” can be called “reckless love.” This is the kind of “acceptable” recklessness that was exhibited by our Almighty God in giving up His only Son. Before mankind came to be, God knew that he would send Jesus into a sinful world to die for our sins. While God knew precisely that mankind would reject Jesus, He still sent His only son, out of love for us, not just the 99, but 100 percent. In this regard, God’s love can be seen as reckless. After all, He knew He would lose His only Son in exchange for the salvation of a multitude of “ungrateful” sinners!
In truth, God’s love, radical or reckless, extreme or irrational, is the kind of overwhelming love that ought to compel believers to adore and obey Him, and for non-believers to give Him a second thought. The reckless love of God conveys a sacrificial kind of love, even at the expense of an exorbitant price for undeserving beneficiaries.
While laymen would define “reckless” as not heeding danger or taking unnecessary risks, this reckless love of God is something mankind does not deserve but is done with a heavenly reward. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Matthew 15:7). Our Almighty God can be reckless in this context; we should not, in any context, particularly in abiding by His Word. Otherwise, order is lost, and the system fails.
A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.
For questions and comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.