Analysis : ' Can I Tell A Dying Friend 's Secret On His Children ' Essay

Analysis : ' Can I Tell A Dying Friend 's Secret On His Children ' Essay

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Ethical Conundrum Essay
I selected the article, “Can I Tell a Dying Friend’s Secret to His Children?” I selected this article
from the New York Times Ethicist Column. The ethical conundrum in question in this article is from the
perspective of the dying man’s friend. In a sense he is asking is he obligated to keep his friend’s secret
or can he reveal it now or upon his death. His friend’s secret is a rather big one that can have many
potential consequences - He has a child approximately 30 years old that he has nothing to do with since
birth, and has kept this secret from his wife and other children. The friend has a terminal cancer that
has metastasized and it is estimated that he has less than a year to live at best. This man had previously
asked his friend to let his wife and children know that there is another child out there, but the friend
decided not to tell them. He clearly thinks that the man’s children have a right to know that they have a
sibling, and he is battling with the idea of keeping the secret. It isn’t clear whether his decision was
because he did not want his family to think less of him, or if it was for other reasons he did not disclose.
According to Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Ethicist responding in this article, the man should first
understand the gravity of the situation. He needs to take into consideration that his friend told him this
secret in confidence, and that if the man can still understand him perhaps he should talk to the man and
try to understand why he does not want his family to know. I agree with the ethicist on this point - he
should talk to his friend to try to understand his logic for keeping this secret from his family. Trust,
loyalty, and privacy are qualities that we expect from a friend ...

... middle of paper ...

...half-sibling. Therefore it is morally right to
tell the truth that there is another sibling.
I decided to break this scenario into two parts the first part being the duty to the friend while he
is living, the second part being the duty to the family upon his death. From my interpretation of the
ethicist’s point of view it most fits Kant’s Theory. I agree with the application of Kant’s Theory to the
scenario while the man is living. There is a duty of trust and confidence with his friend that he should
not break. However, once the man passes away, the obligation to his friend is gone - therefore the
friend’s duty moves to the man’s children. When the duty moves to the man’s children, I think that act-
utilitarianism is the most applicable theory. I think the telling the truth is the most morally right action
to take at this point, and will produce the most overall good

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