How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?

Would you inform your boss about a chronic illness before its effects are visible?

Interesting question, right? “How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?”

We often criticize others in the health professions for actions we consider inappropriate. Yet, we rarely question our own behavior.

With this in mind, here are excerpts from a recent Sunday NY Times’ ethicist column written by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

What Would YOU Do?

Excerpts of Question (name withheld): 

During my brief tenure, my boss has increased my responsibilities, promoted me, and proposed changing my position to be more in line with my previous employment. In essence, he is slowly transforming my work into the dream job I discussed during my interview. I suspect he has done so to ensure that I remain, not knowing that I am ill.”

“I have yet to tell my boss about my diagnosis. Legally, I suspect I am not obligated to, unless I need to take leave from my job. Yet morally, should I not at least advise my boss, particularly given his mentorship of me? I recognize that some of the potential requirements of my new job — frequent travel, increased responsibilities, extended time away from my instrumental supports — may be unsustainable 12 months from now, if not sooner. However, I am currently able to perform. What is my duty here?”

Excerpts of Response from the Ethicist (Kwame Anthony Appiah):

“As an employee, you are entitled to keep your diagnosis to yourself until it impairs your performance; and as long as you can fulfill the essential functions of your position, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your emerging disabilities.”

“But as you’re well aware, you have another morally relevant relationship with your boss. This is someone you care about and who cares about you. That personal relationship brings burdens as well as benefits. On the one hand, your personal bond with him gives you the reasonable expectation that he won’t exploit what you tell him to your disadvantage, at least to an extent consistent with his duties as your boss. On the other hand, it also places a special demand on you to speak with him honestly. You may feel that you owe it to him to give him time to plan for your eventual decline and departure. More time, perhaps, than you would if you were dealing with a faceless institution.”

Click the image to read the full Q&A.

How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?
Illustration by Tomi Um.