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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Camper, Coffee and Kid Dilemma


Should a Camp Counselor Stop a Student From Trying Coffee?


This small piece appeared in the ethics column of the New York Times. I'm not comfortable with the ethicist's advice.

I agree that camp staff shouldn't serve or press coffee on a camper whose parents have listed it as "dietary restrictions. However, they should not substitute their judgment for the parents if the child is still under legal age. In other words, they should not be deciding whether this kid is old enough to handle a decision to drink coffee either. The kid is still legally a kid and his parents have ultimate jurisdiction.

The camp staff and ethicist are too willing to decide this question on the merits, when it isn't really their decision to make. I suspect if they were Mormon and it was their kids, they would be enraged if camp staff decided to set aside their guidelines when it came to their own kid.

The child should have notified his parents, not camp staff that he was drinking coffee. But, if camp staff know, they have a moral and legal obligation to inform the parents as to what happened because they know it is a dietary restriction.

Camp staff or the ethicists shouldn't be deciding what are, and what are not "esoteric dictates."

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