Italian seismologists convicted of multiple manslaughter.

  • Thread starter turbo
  • Start date
  • #1
turbo
Gold Member
3,077
45

Main Question or Discussion Point

Looks like a good field to avoid in Italy. Especially in areas where mud-brick walls abound.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/italian-court-begins-deliberations-over-scientists-accused-of-failing-to-warn-of-earthquake/2012/10/22/8c4886bc-1c3d-11e2-8817-41b9a7aaabc7_story.html [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
178
0
Unbelievable. Perverse in the extreme. This from a nation where endemic corruption means people routinely escape genuine responsibility.
 
  • #4
4,465
72
More background on why this occurred:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=536593

Doesn't make it right, but at least easier to understand the point behind the trial.
Absolutely and I would repeat what I said in that thread:

An Italian collegue/friend told me once, discussing a trial following an accident, about the Italian legislation. In principle, he told me, that if somebody dies not from natural causes, then somebody must be guilty of that and should be trialed.

I have not been able to verify that but it seems just to be the legal culture. So in Italy this is likely just the normal course of action.
 
  • #5
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
9,970
132
Scientists' culpability for disasters is not necessarily beyond the pale, but cannot be assigned to practitioners within "uncertain" sciences.
There is a huge difference between the culpability of a structural engineer OKaying the building of a house he knows will fall down, and the culpability of a seismologist OKaying continued residence in a seismically active region.
In the latter case, they cannot be regarded as culpable, even if it can be proven that at least one other expert advocated evacuation.
 
  • #6
178
0
Doesn't make it right, but at least easier to understand the point behind the trial.
Cultural perception is all very well, but these men have been sentenced to six years in prison. That is no longer a matter of culture, it is simply a matter of human rights.

...the culpability of a structural engineer OKaying the building of a house he knows will fall down...
It doesn’t have to be that the engineer knows that the building will fall down. If he has simply been negligent about the possibility that the building might fall down, and it does fall down resulting in loss of life, then it is reasonable to hold the engineer responsible. Always the difficult one has to be the medical profession, but if a medical practitioner has been careless about the administering of treatment, and the treatment administered actually made the patient’s situation worse, then the medical practitioner is responsible and must face the consequences. I find no evidence that these men were in any way negligent. What happened was not caused by their carelessness, it was caused by the impossibility of anticipating the outcome with any certainty. As much as the possibility of it existed, you didn’t need to be an expert to anticipate it. In terms of any certainties, the experts were in no better position than the laymen. That is not negligence. What it is, is an appalling injustice.
 
  • #7
172
1
This is completely insane. I hope Italy realizes that no scientist in their right mind will ever join any committee tasked with making predictions from now on. If any do, they will have to be so overly-cautious as to cry wolf at every little thing for fear of getting it wrong. This may also discourage students from getting into science. Who wants to be arrested for something they had no control over?
 
  • #8
Borek
Mentor
28,476
2,873
I guess all Italian seismologists from now on should proclaim an Italian strike and all the time claim there will be an earthquake tomorrow.

And no, it wasn't intended as a joke, even if it may sound like one.

Makes me think about Linate Airport disaster, where one of the people convicted was the air traffic controller who have followed the procedure to the letter - but the procedure was full of dangerous holes.
 
  • #9
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
9,970
132
It doesn’t have to be that the engineer knows that the building will fall down. If he has simply been negligent about the possibility that the building might fall down, and it does fall down resulting in loss of life, then it is reasonable to hold the engineer responsible. Always the difficult one has to be the medical profession, but if a medical practitioner has been careless about the administering of treatment, and the treatment administered actually made the patient’s situation worse, then the medical practitioner is responsible and must face the consequences. I find no evidence that these men were in any way negligent. What happened was not caused by their carelessness, it was caused by the impossibility of anticipating the outcome with any certainty. As much as the possibility of it existed, you didn’t need to be an expert to anticipate it. In terms of any certainties, the experts were in no better position than the laymen. That is not negligence. What it is, is an appalling injustice.
Very important.
They need to be proven criminally negligent relative to what we could call "standard science".
A medical practitioner, for example, cannot be regarded as criminally negligent if NOT implementing a still highly experimental therapy.
If that therapy has infiltrated itself WITHIN "standard science", and the practitioner still don't implement it, THEN he can be regarded as negligent.
 
  • #10
Mentalist
This is a dumb sentencing:

A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.
The seven - all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks - were accused of having provided "inexact, incomplete and contradictory" information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.
One of the lawyers for the defence, Marcello Petrelli, described the sentences as "hasty" and "incomprehensible".
I definitely agree.

After the verdict was announced, David Rothery, of the UK's Open University, said earthquakes were "inherently unpredictable".
Hence, "contradictory information".

"If the scientific community is to be penalised for making predictions that turn out to be incorrect, or for not accurately predicting an event that subsequently occurs, then scientific endeavour will be restricted to certainties only and the benefits that are associated with findings from medicine to physics will be stalled."
 
  • #11
378
2
Scientists' culpability for disasters is not necessarily beyond the pale, but cannot be assigned to practitioners within "uncertain" sciences.
There is a huge difference between the culpability of a structural engineer OKaying the building of a house he knows will fall down, and the culpability of a seismologist OKaying continued residence in a seismically active region.
In the latter case, they cannot be regarded as culpable, even if it can be proven that at least one other expert advocated evacuation.
A seismologist should never be OKaying anything IMO.
 
  • #12
475
1
So the next time the weather man says it's not going to rain and it does, and I get into a car accident because of the slippery road, I guess I'll sue the weatherman for lying to me
 
  • #13
Borek
Mentor
28,476
2,873
So the next time the weather man says it's not going to rain and it does, and I get into a car accident because of the slippery road, I guess I'll sue the weatherman for lying to me
Only if you are Italian.
 
  • #14
38
1
Absolutely and I would repeat what I said in that thread:
Interesting. Was the press conference attempting to justify the arrest of the man who made the predictions based on radon gas, and if so did the scientists in question support his arrest?
 
  • #15
2,123
79
Always the difficult one has to be the medical profession, but if a medical practitioner has been careless about the administering of treatment, and the treatment administered actually made the patient’s situation worse, then the medical practitioner is responsible and must face the consequences.
It comes down to the established standards of the profession concerned as well as intent. In the US, physicians can be found negligent in a civil trial and subject to monetary payment for damages. It's rare however for physicians to be subject to criminal prosecution for malpractice unless there was "gross negligence" (like being intoxicated when performing a procedure and causing injury or death). To win a malpractice case in the US (at least in theory) one has to show that 1) the practitioner violated professional standards 2) the patient suffered a demonstrable injury or death 3) the practitioner's violation of standards was the proximate cause of, or significantly contributed to the injury or death.

As far as I know, there are no professional standards anywhere for predicting earthquakes, so there is no basis for comparison with the medical profession.
 
Last edited:
  • #16
18,198
7,800
Top Italy scientists resign in protest at quake ruling
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hgHYMt0RlaWTj9auQhUgx4ibC5wQ?docId=CNG.bffad396104a93be5f736ad6dfe206e9.5e1 [Broken]
 
Last edited:
  • #17
4,465
72
That's sad, but probably the only way to address a fundamental flaw in the Italian legislation.
 
  • #18
6
0
Very important.
They need to be proven criminally negligent relative to what we could call "standard science".
A medical practitioner, for example, cannot be regarded as criminally negligent if NOT implementing a still highly experimental therapy.
If that therapy has infiltrated itself WITHIN "standard science", and the practitioner still don't implement it, THEN he can be regarded as negligent.
Don't forget that if the patient failed to disclose a medical condition or allergy that the practicing physician did nothing wrong.
So the next time the weather man says it's not going to rain and it does, and I get into a car accident because of the slippery road, I guess I'll sue the weatherman for lying to me
I guess this means a lot of Meteorologist are going to be convicted of manslaughter for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irene... While were at it lets throw in Hurricane Andrew.
 
  • #19
Evo
Mentor
23,141
2,697
A modern day witch hunt.
 
  • #20
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
24,776
7,770
Top Italy scientists resign in protest at quake ruling
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hgHYMt0RlaWTj9auQhUgx4ibC5wQ?docId=CNG.bffad396104a93be5f736ad6dfe206e9.5e1 [Broken]
Pity they couldn't spell Maiani's name right. And technically, he's not Italian: he's San Marinian.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #21
378
2
Top Italy scientists resign in protest at quake ruling
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hgHYMt0RlaWTj9auQhUgx4ibC5wQ?docId=CNG.bffad396104a93be5f736ad6dfe206e9.5e1 [Broken]
"Major Risks Committee" :confused:, a scapegoat committee? :blushing:
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #22
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
9,970
132
Don't forget that if the patient failed to disclose a medical condition or allergy that the practicing physician did nothing wrong.
Certainly.
And in some critical cases, I would assume that an emergency team MUST act quickly, even though they know that in some cases, the procedure might be fatal (say, they would have proceeded differently if they knew about a patient's aneurism, for example).
 
  • #23
zonde
Gold Member
2,941
213
More background on why this occurred:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=536593

Doesn't make it right, but at least easier to understand the point behind the trial.
So they gambled human lives just to silence some crackpot? Judging by the fact that they got 6 years instead of requested 4 this is the way how it seems to judge.
 
  • #24
Evo
Mentor
23,141
2,697
It doesn't matter if someone says the chance for a damaging quake is unlikely. If a quake happens, you don't pretend that it's not happening, you use common sense and do what you would normally do. I don't see anywhere that a scientist told anyone that if a quake hits to disregard it.
 
  • #25
zonde
Gold Member
2,941
213
There is what official said and how population responded to what that official said i.e. people relaxed when normally they would stay alert. One might claim that population responded in some unpredictable way but considering that they intention was to calm population it does not really hold water.
 

Related Threads on Italian seismologists convicted of multiple manslaughter.

Replies
4
Views
731
Replies
36
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Last Post
5
Replies
109
Views
19K
  • Last Post
Replies
17
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
3K
Top