The Return of the Randy

The length of my Ethicist response posts is, I think, inversely related to the quality of his columns. I am not neurotic enough to have confirmed this.

This week, his first issue is about how much weight should be given to the desires of the recently deceased. This is more of a coordination problem than anything else. As long as people know what the presumption is about how their desires will be enacted after their death, they can organize their fares during life accordingly. But that might be making this case too easy. Let's assume that the presumption is in favor of keeping things confidential which the recently deceased made the effort to make confidential during life, and that some positive step must have been taken, and that this was well known. We still might want to make an exception for people who die quite young and haven't given any thought to this. It's tough, but I think I have to go with Randy and assume that the daughter here was writing with the assumption that no one would ever read what she wrote, and that her assumption should be enforced. If society said it was fine to look at your child's confidential materials when they died, people would censor their journal writing, which seems like a bizarre cost to impose.

On the second, I really think the teacher should accept non-typed materials if they can be read with exactly the ease of typed ones. But that rule would be very hard to enforce, as students may well think mistakenly that their handwriting is easier to read than it is. Beyond that it's a very fact-based inquiry as to how many hours the lab or some other public free facility must be open. Even if there is really good access to computer labs, the student may still be problematically stigmatized as poor. So Randy's wrong, the policy is unethical, but Randy's take is more defensible than some of his previous work.