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Doctor Copts out of her oaths

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Dr. Mary Hanna, an anaesthesiologist who had enlisted in the Army in exchange for the Army putting her through medical school. She agreed to serve eight years after the Army paid almost $200,000 for her schooling.

But then, just as it came time to pay the piper, Dr. Hanna had a resurgence of her Coptic Christian faith and realized that she simply could not, in good conscience, help the Army. She was a born-again pacifist, and supporting the military in any way was against her newfound beliefs. The Army guaranteed her that she would not be sent out of the country, but that wasn't good enough: she wanted to be recognized as a Conscientious Objector and released from her contract and oaths.

Well, she's won. A federal judge has granted her release from the Army. Judge Nancy Gertner, who seems to be regarded as a liberal activist judge, ruled that the Army had no "basis in fact" to refuse her request. Apparently several review boards, testimony from a Chaplain on the finer nuances of the Coptic faith, actual statements by a Coptic priest, and a psychiatric exam, all of which indicated that her professions were less than sincere (and, coincidentally, happening right around the time her schooling was winding down and her commitment to service -- four years on active duty, then four years in the Reserves -- were about to kick in.

Dr. Hanna (she is obviously no longer worthy of the rank and title "Captain"), through her lawyer, promises to repay the $184,000 the Army spent on her, plus interest. Gee, how thoughtful of her.

According to this report, the average new doctor emerges with his degree and $90,000 in debts. That means that Dr. Hanna will have to work twice as long as they will to pay off her obligations. Still, that's pretty damned cheap.

I will repeat my initial position: Dr. Hanna should be required to pay back all -- ALL -- the expenses the Army spent on her. That was not just a contract, but an investment -- and she backed out of the deal after the Army had fulfilled its obligations and before she started fulfilling hers. Further, since her weaseling attack of conscience cost the Army not only the money it invested in her but several years, there ought to be some penalty.

The one I proposed was simple: her debt, with interest, doubled -- to reflect the cost of training her replacement as well. And until those debts were repaid, she would be forbidden from accepting any goverment money or assistance whatsoever. No Medicaid. No Medicare. No access to government hospitals. So federal research grants. Not one damned dime from the government whose Army she found so repugnant that she could not bring herself to treat soldiers wounded in service to their nation.

It would have been nice had she discovered her conscience much earlier, before she finished all her education and training, but better late than never. In the meantime, though, let her stand on her principles -- and let her learn that such stances come with a price.

She is trying to hide behind Coptic Christianity to escape her solemn oaths, one to the Army to serve and one before Hippocrates to heal. If we can't have her spending time as inmate/doctor at Leavenworth, then let her get back the same disdain from the government that she expresses towards it.

As a taxpayer who helped pay for her education and training, it's the very least I want.


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Comments (35)

Right on. This doesn't hap... (Below threshold)

Right on. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it just burns me to no end. I can respect her newfound (or re-found) belief, but she should have to pay back HER money plus - as you said - the cost of training her replacement. The military (already short of anesthesiologists) is now down one more, thanks to her crisis of conscience.

Reminds me of Yolanda Hewit... (Below threshold)

Reminds me of Yolanda Hewitt-Vaughn. She pulled essentially the same stunt during the first gulf war. As I recall, the military won that one, and her sorry ass eventually went to prison for a while.

They should have shoved an M16 in her hands and stuck her on the front line. Same goes for Mary Hanna.

Another born again 70 pafif... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Another born again 70 pafifist pansie frankly shie should,nt be allowed to be vetinarian working on drunkin hamsters

Another shameless liberal s... (Below threshold)

Another shameless liberal shows her true character. The Army should assign her contract to the PEACE Corps, for which she can serve 8 years in Darfur, nowhere near an American soldier and clearly working for world peace.

David said: "Right o... (Below threshold)

David said:
"Right on. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it just burns me to no end."

You can expect it to happen much more often now that the courts have set a favorable precedent.

Someday when Americans real... (Below threshold)

Someday when Americans realize it's not the military or the government paying for these incentives but the taxpayers footing the bill, maybe they won't be so willing to be conned.

The judge is obviously a liberal-left activist. Even if indeed this woman is a pacifist, she's a physician -- are pacifists prohibited from saving the lives of wounded soldiers? They must be growing a new and different crop of pacifists this year.

This story goes to the heart of our problem in the US -- the federal government putting a gun to the head of taxpayers, taking their money and giving it to con-artists who know all the angles.

I'd like to see more GOP presidential candidates in 2008 talk about a federal sales tax and continue their call for lower taxes. So far, I only hear a couple of candidates like John Cox (www.cox2008.com/video) talking about real tax reform.

yeah well I have opposed Ir... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

yeah well I have opposed Iraq since the fall of 02..it is now costing us taxpayers $2 billion a week
and the majority of the US in all polls believes it was fraud...
Ya know...we all wish we could pick and choose were our tax bucks go..all our tax bucks and what we borrow from Asia goes to Iraq..but we must trust our Republic...
Remember that Stevens's "BRIDGE TO NOWHERE"? It did get passed.. at least $240 million(you ever see a project not cost more?)
I tell ya what...if Ted pays it back..I will demand her chump change be refunded...

her debt, with interest,... (Below threshold)

her debt, with interest, doubled -- to reflect the cost of training her replacement as well.

Umm, she is paying the costs of training her replacement. That's what paying back what they gave her, with interest, accomplishes. In the end, they wind up with a doctor and spent the same amount they would have.

What you're suggesting is the equivalent of returning something to a store, they give you your money back, and in addition they give you back the product for free. Doesn't happen.

Compensatory awards are meant to compensate you for your loss, not give you the product for free. Now, if you want to advocate for a punitive award, that's something separate. The Army could, and probably should, add that provision to their standard contract.

Brian, the Army is out a do... (Below threshold)

Brian, the Army is out a doctor NOW. Assuming that they get another to replace her, he or she is STILL several years away from service. They will have to cover her absence for couple of years before that replacement is trained and ready for service. I have no idea about the financial cost of that loss, but I'm sure it's above and beyond the interest she will pay.

So if you want to call it a punitive damage, that's fine with me. I have no problems with that -- obviously, since I've advocated several other measures that are punitive as well. I think there's a sense of poetic justice in the government denying any assistance on a woman who turned her back on fulfilling her pledge to assist that government.

She took the king's gold, then refused to play the king's tune. If the king's taste in music offends you, then there is no compulsion to accept that gold in the first place.


We should keep track of whe... (Below threshold)
Matt R:

We should keep track of where she practices. Every week it should be the job of a Wizbanger, or a conglomeration of Wizbangers, to buy an ad in the local paper where she practices and remind the citizens of the area that she shirked her duty to the country. We could make sure she never prospers from the education we payed for, because you know damn well she is never going to pay the governemnt a dime.


...of course I know not eve... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

...of course I know not everything is going to Iraq..I am just saying that I would rather subsidize a Doctor than the proven debacle of Iraq...I pay my taxes although I don't approve of how they are spent...
and...It cracks me up when I hear that Dems are the Party of "tax and spend"...the last 5 years have been don't tax but spend...
Seriously...when all three of our branches of govt are controlled by Republicans...don't they deserve some blame?

ya all want stats on folks ... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

ya all want stats on folks who declaired bankruptcy to get out of college loans?
just google "bankruptcy college loans"
....and I hope that all posters who write about her "duty" are recent vets who know that if we don't fight them over there...they will blow up our house...me...I am a vet who joined so the Viet Cong..would be killed over there and not blow up my parent's house...I was successful...they never did..

She broke her contract, and... (Below threshold)

She broke her contract, and now is paying the penalty. I wouldn't call this judge "liberal activist" but one who is a stickler for contracts. A liberal activist judge would have said that because she is an objector, she wouldn't pay the army anything back because the army should have known about her "religions intentions".

Well when I was in during t... (Below threshold)
cate s.:

Well when I was in during the first Gulf War I was injured. I was talking to one of the nurses before I went to surgery. She was a Quaker but the Army paid for her education which helped her out and she was able give her to her country while doing what she loved-being a nurse while practicing her faith. This doctor does need to go to Darfur. Did she go to med school at Bethesda? I feel no sympathy for her and would like to see her pay five times what she owes! Call me a meanie Brian if you want. Don't care.

Upon further reflection I a... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Upon further reflection I agree she should pay back the loan..she should be no different than anyone attending medical school...
Like everyone here I do not have the trial transcrpt so I can not say it is the court's fault.

Henry, if you'd read the ar... (Below threshold)

Henry, if you'd read the article, you'd see that Dr. Hanna had to sign a declaration that she was NOT a CO before she was accepted. It was only as her education and training were winding down and her service commitment was drawing near that her Coptic faith asserted itself and compelled her to renounce her contract and earlier oath.

by the way.. it was cates s... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

by the way.. it was cates s who changed my mind...
you are absolutly right...thank you for your personal and meaningful post..

She's full of it. There is ... (Below threshold)

She's full of it. There is nothing incompatible between Christianity and military service, just some aspects of it that have been present in previous generations (think torture). Jesus never told the Roman centurion he met early on to quit his job, nor did he ever say anything like that.

OK, now we all know where t... (Below threshold)

OK, now we all know where the Coptic faith stands in relationship to warfare. Kinda makes one wonder how they feel about swearing a false oath.

Burt, don't judge all the C... (Below threshold)

Burt, don't judge all the Copts by this one example. In the story, they say that the Army asked a Coptic priest about whether his faith was incompatible with military service -- and he said no, it is not.


JTI'm not judging th... (Below threshold)

I'm not judging the faith at all. I am pointing out the hypocracy of an individual who would take one aspect of their religion to excuse bad behavior while ignoring other tenets that apply equally well. The only truly Christian way to get out of this mess is to say: "The Devil made me do it".

If a Quaker can serve as a ... (Below threshold)

If a Quaker can serve as a nurse, a Copt can serve as a doctor.

The idea that it's against her faith to save the life of a soldier is obscene.

Nor, if she were sent to Iraq, would she only treat soldiers. I don't know about stalking the woman at her jobs but I'd love to see a bill board campaign with a "doctor" standing, turned with her chin tilted up away from a wounded soldier and an bloody Iraqi child reaching toward her for help that is being denied and the words "Do No Harm."

BTW... since she's Coptic, does anyone know if she speaks Arabic?

Wouldn't *that* be a nice thing for frightened Iraqis, to have a doctor who could talk to them next time some goon blows up a bunch of children.

But nah, she's got *convictions*.

I strongly suspect that thi... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

I strongly suspect that this lady is blowing smoke. I don't know of ANY Orthodox Christian Church that esposes pacifism. This includes the Coptic Church.

Orthodox Churches are typically decorated with icons of saints. Traditionally the saints at the back of the church, where people enter, are the soldier saints: those that fought to defend Orthodoxy: Constantine, Menas, and Michael are typically there. They are painted in armor, with their weapons in hand.

She may have found some hedge priest who is in schism with the rest of the Coptic Church. That's all I can figure.

Hang her. ... (Below threshold)

Hang her.

I say she should be making ... (Below threshold)

I say she should be making little rocks outta big rocks until the Army has a fully trained replacement.

The fact that "by chance" s... (Below threshold)
Lavender Dragon:

The fact that "by chance" she rediscovered her faith only after she was trained, but before serving is suspicious. Also being a CO myself, I can say with conviction that serving her time stateside in a noncombat position should have been acceptable. In addition being a CO shouldn't stop you from serving your nation.
The judge followed the letter of the law. Maybe the contract should be changed. Perhaps to state that if for any reason you can not complete your service that service should be moved to civil service when feasible.
I was a vet that had to leave service early for health issues. Moving to civil service would have been welcome.

In the future, if any poten... (Below threshold)

In the future, if any potential employers have any sense of justice/rightness, they will refuse to hire her until she has discharged her obligations.

Anyone of true faith with their conscience, will want to fulfill their commitments. If she has truly weighed her beliefs versus her commitments, she should have offered a solution that would have equitably enabled her to extract herself from her situation.

Jay, I know that, I was bei... (Below threshold)

Jay, I know that, I was being facetious. The problem is it's hard to have a nuance in your text when it's just black and white.

I say she is a traitor-stic... (Below threshold)

I say she is a traitor-stick a gun up her ass and pull the trigger. Count down until I get hosed--5-4-3-2-----

As a physician, I'd have a ... (Below threshold)

As a physician, I'd have a lot of trouble hiring such a person for a job opening, now matter how qualified her CV otherwise indicated, simply because backing away from a mutually beneficial commitment like this indicates a serious personality flaw. I couldn't in good conscience hire someone like this and trust them covering my patients.

I hope other potential private employers feel similarly. That said, I'm pretty sure she could find a job in Massachusetts.

I don't think the US govt s... (Below threshold)

I don't think the US govt should accept repayment.

The deal was to make her an Army Doctor. No Army, no doctor. Refuse to license her...can't practice medicine without one of those.

"OK, now we all know where ... (Below threshold)
A Copt:

"OK, now we all know where the Coptic faith stands in relationship to warfare. Kinda makes one wonder how they feel about swearing a false oath."

From the article in the Boston Globe: "The judge wrote that the board had relied heavily on an Army chaplain who concluded that the Coptic Orthodox Church endorses military service." The army chaplain is right, the Coptic faith is not at all against military service. In fact the Coptic Pope, H.H. Pope Shenouda III, served in the Egyptian army.

It disgusts me that Ms. Hanna attempted to use the Coptic Orthodox faith to evade her duty. Ask any Copt, this is not how we behave.

Well, i just have read the ... (Below threshold)

Well, i just have read the first paragraph which concerncs me because i am coptic man but with open-minded thinking , i do believe we have to distinict between our politics and belief .It is NOT reasonable at all to base that decision from the judge belief-based .She knows very well from the begining that it is a military purpose .
Just imagine if she is working in the Egyptain military service ,they will kick her off to prison if thought a moment of saying no ,or objection .
Doctor Hanna if you read my views please excuse me ,because the writer based the whole issue on our coptic face ,we have to be priniiple toward our coptic fame .No reason at all for you escaping the loan , just get out her ,tell us your view .

The writer ,please i like to know her view ?

Secular Coptic

The majority of you people ... (Below threshold)
Ambrosios the Egyptian:

The majority of you people are congenital spastics, even you Egyptians whom I am ashamed to call my brothers in blood and faith.

Never mind what you think the Coptic Orthodox faith says on the matter of pacifism. This lady, who has no doubt worked very hard to qualify as a doctor made the decision that she would not be comfortable serving as any component of any current American wars. Maybe she's not a proponent of imperialism. That is her decision. Not yours. And so she has the right to leave the army for whatever reason she chooses on condition that she pays back her debt.

You should be thankful that your country has another doctor and you should respect the rights and the intelligence of a person who has been gifted by God with the ability to heal you and your families. That is service to your country enough.

Ambrosios, you may be surpr... (Below threshold)

Ambrosios, you may be surprised to read this, but you're right. She should be free to leave the Army as long as she repays her debt.

The disagreement is in what is involved in that debt. It's not purely financial.

As far as the rest of your natterings... they stand as their own refutation.







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