Cheating is never good especially when it involves public and patient safety. Annie Dookhan messed up by her own admission and although she is free on $10,000 bail, neither the City of Boston nor the State of Massachusetts will ever forget her. As a result of her shameful actions as a public servant, the Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner resigned and 2 state employees of a state-operated crime lab were fired, ending their careers. How does one teach someone how to do the right thing, even when no one is looking? Is integrity an inborn human trait or does it have to be taught? These are the questions that come to mind as I ponder Dookhan’s fate.
Dookhan was a 34 year old chemist who worked for the State of Massachusetts for 9 years and tested more than 60,000 samples for drugs that involved 34,000 defendants and gave the wrong results. She performed 500 tests a day which aroused the suspicion of her fellow colleagues who performed an average of 50 to 150 samples a day. She was also caught forging her co-workers signatures on forms as a means of eliminating an important step in the drug screening process. Although employees reported their suspicion to their supervisors, some were reluctant to take action and others reviewed her forms but never cross-checked her samples which is standard procedures.
Dookhan also testified under oath that she held a masters degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts but none could be found. She also admitted to the police that she deliberately turned negative urine samples into positives on more than one occasion. The Massachusetts Attorney General is now involved in this case as well as the governor. The entire lab had to be shut down and is now under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts State Police. Approximately 1141 inmates in state prisons and county jails have been affected and could possibly go free.
Dookhan alleges that she cheated because she felt pressured to “do more work.” She has been accused by others of being ambitious to a fault. While she may have wanted job security and a good performance evaluation, she certainly went about it the wrong way.
“Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.”A breach in public trust is unforgiving. Yes, Annie, you did mess up. You messed up bad.