Question asked of The Ethicist in the New York Times on Sunday, November 4, 2018.
Like shopping at Tiffany’s, if you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it.
If you have asked the question, you already have the answer.
The circumstances of the parents in this situation are severe (auto accident that left the parents severely disabled), trying, and demanding for their son/daughter (name was withheld). This is a tragedy, but the resentment in the description (of lost career opportunities), the discussion of cultural differences between the immigrant parents and their child, and the disgruntled acknowledgment of the parents’ sacrifice for the child’s education all point to a desire to walk away.
The advice given in response? Don’t further derail your life because then another life is lost. Is a life ever lost in making what will be the short last years of a loved one’s time on earth a bit more comfortable? Will the experience enrich the child? Is it possible that the child can reconnect with mom and dad? Just thinking through the issues beyond the derailed career.
Having raised a child with significant disabilities, the Barometer witnessed first-hand the number of philanthropic and other resources available for families trying to care for the severely disabled. With the help of those who feel we owe something to those who cannot care for themselves, we can shoulder the burden and still have a life.
For an ethics expert to fail to point out the human side in response is sad for the recipient of the advice as well as the expert. John Stuart Mill, quoted in the response, may not be the best source for a situation that requires a heart.