Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interesting Cases

The most frequently asked question during presentations and tours of the office is a request to hear about “interesting cases”. This week has been no exception. Tuesday we had 2 groups of College of Lake County students (their “over 40” program, learning about the “Justice System”) and another group from the National Youth Leadership Forum on Wednesday.

It is difficult relating interesting cases. Cases that might be interesting to the office staff in certain ways may not be interesting to the “general public”. In addition, we need to be careful not to upset certain “sensibilities” of the members of the groups. For example, some cases of “choking” have “autoerotic” overtones and therefore while it might be an “interesting case” you might not want to talk about it with certain audiences. In telling about “interesting cases” I want to avoid sensationalizing certain aspects of the deaths, e.g. the highest blood alcohol measured in an individual dying from alcohol overuse.

Lastly, it is critically important to not trivialize or appear to be trivializing (or making light of) any individual’s death. A person died after all.

The “trade-off”, however, is that these stories stick in people’s heads better than “just the facts”. Describing a teen killed in a car crash is more effective then just saying teens die in car crashes. Describing how “choking” can go wrong will have more impact than just saying it is so. Describing how terrible a drug-related death can be is more likely to affect future behavior than pushing the “just say no” line. (Of course all of the presentations are redacted of personal information)

It is a “tightrope”. I hope my discussing cases in my presentations comes across as education not “entertainment” or titillation. The case stories can be very illustrative and the listeners do listen better.

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