With great trepidation, I visit our friends to the North for the second time in a week…this time, for an Ethics Quiz.
Ken Anderson, 47, of British Columbia, has been fighting a lawsuit by his aged mother, Shirley Anderson, since 2000. Using a rarely used section of B.C.’s Family Relations Act, she is demanding that he pay her $750 per month in “parental support.” The law declares that adult children are responsible for legally supporting parents who are “dependent on a child because of age, illness, infirmity or economic circumstances.”
Anderson isn’t keen on the request, since both his parents abandoned him when he was a mere tyke of 15, leaving him behind as they moved away with two younger siblings. He lived with other families and then quit school to find work. Now he’s married with two kids, and makes his living driving a truck.
“We don’t have a relationship,” he says of dear old Mom. “I haven’t talked to her in years and years and years. She’s just out to make our life miserable.”
But she is, after all, his mother.
Your question, Ethics Alarmers, is this: Assuming he can avoid the clutches of British Columbia’s law, is the ethical conduct for Ken to support his mother in her waning years, even if she refused to support him? Or is he still well within ethical bounds to only use his hard earned money for a family he feels obligated to support…his own?
I know what my mother would have said about this. “Your family never stops being your family!” Many a child has rejected his parents, only to find them welcoming him back into their arms when a crisis loomed. Fick* that she undeniably is, Shirley still gave Ken life, and cared for him for 15 years before she left him to fend for himself. My mother would say that he has an obligation to help her now.
I think that’s asking a lot…too much, in fact. If Ken felt the obligation my mother extolled and wanted to help his mother despite the unmotherly way she treated him, I would salute him: that is exemplary ethical behavior. It is not unethical, however, for him to conclude that she severed the parental bond when she abandoned him. The law is unjust, and this situation shows why. When a mother leaves her boy behind, it is fair for the son to conclude that further obligations to her have ceased—not out of anger, not as revenge, but as simple fairness. Shirley Anderson isn’t seeking out Ken as a son even now; to her, he is just an untapped financial resource.
I would send her a check in appreciation for the use of her womb, and tell her to stay out of my life, and those of my real family. In this situation, applying the Golden Rule makes one a sucker.
But if you agree with my mother, I’m not going to disagree with you. I lost that argument too many times.
*fick, n.: [Origin: named after the despicable Leroy Fick.] A person who engages in outrageously unethical, selfish or antisocial conduct without appropriate shame or contrition, and continues to engage in it after it has been discovered and condemned.