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What Cecil the Lion Means to Dentists

Like you, I was shocked and saddened when I heard the terrible story about an American tourist that killed a lion that was supposed to be protected on a reserve.  And, like you, I slapped my hand against my forehead when I found out he’s a dentist.

What does the fact that he is a dentist have to do with the story?  His actions are atrocious, no doubt, but I don’t understand why the rest of us have to get a black eye because news organizations insist on continually referencing our profession in their reporting.  Here is one story I found from CNN that politely omits his dentistry from the story, however the video that plays at the top (which aired on national television) very much does not.

I began thinking about how much the public seems to enjoy beating up on dentists.  “Local dentist convicted of X” and “Dentist found doing Y” seem to be popular headlines these days.  I wonder if the perpetrator of the crimes would ever be identified as “Local banker convicted of X” or “Plumber found doing Y.”


But then it occurred to me: we are held to a higher standard as members of a profession.  I think it’s more shocking for a dentist to commit a crime than most other jobs because we hold professionals to codes of ethics and we entrust them with our well-being, among other reasons.  It is because the public regards us as professionals that they are more disappointed when we fall way short of those expectations.

It is interesting to note that this particular dentist may not have knowingly committed a crime (this remains to be seen at the time of my writing).  The reports referenced above claim that the trackers hired by the dentist lured the lion away from the preserve, which would certainly seem illegal.  However the dentist has claimed that he was unaware of this.

Regardless of his claims, he would still seem to be guilty of bad taste.  I personally do not hunt animals, but I’m not opposed to hunters who feed themselves with their prey or who help control wildlife populations.  But this hunting of a lion was neither of those cases and that is one of the points that seems to really be upsetting people, myself included.

Aside from my moral objections to killing animals for sport (and not for food or population control), this man is a member of a health care profession.  His actions seem to be discordant with the virtues we associate with health care providers.

I’ll take a page from Jimmey Kimmel, who spoke eloquently and touchingly about the incident, and recommend that you consider donating to The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which is the the organization that was monitoring Cecil.


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