Ethics Dunce (Advice Columnist Division): “Dear Prudence”

Hmmm...refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Hmmm…refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Here is my guess: nearly 100% of all people with two ethics alarms to rub together would be able to answer this question correctly, responsibly, and within about 1o seconds of thought. The question, in essence:

‘I worked as a nanny for a couple I didn’t like, so to make myself feel better, I secretly poisoned them. Now I work elsewhere, and I hear that they are both ill and doctors are stumped. I feel kinda bad about it. What should I do?’

The obvious answer: “For God’s sake, you idiot, tell them what you did, so the doctors can treat them! Why are you wasting time talking to me? They could die, and you would be responsible!”

But this answer isn’t the one given by Emily Yoffe, Slate’s serially incompetent and unethical advice columnist. She responded, in a live online chat that uncovered this vile supplicant, who confessed to routinely dipping her employers’ toothbrushes in the toilet and periodically spiking their bedside water with the same fecal solution, by writing this:

“Part of me would love to tell you to rush to confess. However, I will extend you a courtesy that you didn’t give your “inconsiderate” and “rude” employers. That is, while I think this couple should know the source of their illness, confessing could leave you open to potential prosecution. You may deserve it, but you need to consider the stakes here.”

That part of Emily, apparently, is the sensible, compassionate, ethical part, and it was over-ruled by the unethical, irresponsible, dumb part. The lawyer, if he or she is more ethical than Emily, a good bet, will tell the Potty Poisoner that she should confess immediately in case an E Coli infestation is what is making the couple ill, particularly because they might die, greatly increasing her risk of serious criminal penalties as well as, you know, ending their lives and leaving their children parentless.  The lawyer will also explain all the possible scenarios resulting from what Emily seems to dread, honesty and accountability. Even lawyers, who are required to place their clients’ best interests first, are not supposed to advise them to cover up their crimes and allow their victims to perish. Advice columnists are definitely not supposed to do this, and are duty bound to give wise and responsible advice that is in the best interests of all concerned, not just their correspondents, who are likely to be, in general, less than bright, ethically-clueless, and in need of nannies themselves.

“Dear Ethics Alarms: I’m an advice columnist and I told someone who said that she had been poisoning her employers with fecal matter that she didn’t need to ‘fess up, even though they became deathly ill. Now she has written me a follow-up, thanking me for my advice since the couple died, leaving several young children orphaned, and she would have been in big trouble if she had come clean. Now I feel guilty. Should I?”


Pointer: Fark

Source: Slate

25 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce (Advice Columnist Division): “Dear Prudence”

  1. I honestly don’t think this could be real. Not that I think such a thing couldn’t happen, but I doubt anyone who did such a thing would fess up at all. I also think Prudence makes a habit of provocative advice and wouldn’t be surprised if she made this up. In any case ick ick ick!

    • If you are going to make up a question, why give such wretched advice in response to it?
      And it was an online chat, remember, so she was responding “live.”

      Who knows how many advice column questions are fake? The point is to treat them as useful hypotheticals, if nothing else, and give responsible and perceptive answers as if the question were real.

        • I was thinking it was either her or some outside person. So, since it probably wasn’t her made up question it certainly could be a set up.
          The point is giving advice that absolves the perp from taking responsibility even for such horrendous acts. I can’t imagine Dear Abby or Ann Landers giving that kind of advice. We all think someone should be punished, but never us. We’re a gottcha society, but we all want to be sure we never get caught or brought to justice. Pity the person who is blamed whether guilty or not.

  2. Yikes, the nanny brings back memories of “Goodfellas” ethics of spitting in sandwiches because the customer has sent food back. Ick!! Still the real problem is this bonehead from Slate whose previous claim to fame is receiving an award from The Dog Writers Association of America. Jack, I think you should have titled this post *A Tale Of Two Dunces* or something similar.

  3. I would love an argument on this.

    Can’t ole’ Emily or even the perpetrator of the poisoning log on and defend themselves? We haven’t had a good old fashioned skewering of the indefensible in a while…

  4. I have my doubts about persons “poisoned” with toilet water.

    Also, what happened to the days when if you hated your employer you left and found another one?

  5. “Also, what happened to the days when if you hated your employer you left and found another one?”

    This is a very special case, obviously. Emily had an internal conflict of a Freudian nature. She needed the job yet felt conflicted about contributing to the structure of the evil household so she poisoned her employers as a compromise. As for the medium Emily chose to poison her victims, I think it’s best just to say that Emily seems to be fixated at the anal stage.

  6. This nanny, if real, is a sociopath — a word often overused but applicable here. I wonder if she has another job working with children. Ugh.

  7. What should a lawyer do if the client refuses to inform as advised to do and the third parties are subject to further harm? Does common decency trump confidentiality?

  8. Your advice columnist should have told the nanny to ‘fess up. Period.

    It may well be that with today’s high-tech CSI abilities, it would have been found that toilet water wouldn’t have harmed the parents BUT THE INTENT WAS THERE. She should be prosecuted for attempted murder, and let the courts take it from there.

    As to the advice columnist, and I use the term loosely, she should be fired, charged as an accomplice to attempted murder, and, maybe, burned at the stake. As luck would have it, I was able to quit work and take care of my baby. When I went back to work as a consultant (with office in the home) I was extremely vigilant about the nannies who came in while I was working there. Still, I had bad experiences and fired one. At least no one tried to murder me.

    Considering the general IQ and morals of the standard “cheap” nanny: learn a lesson. Fix your finances, take care of your children, live a more modest life, but DON’T give your dearest children up to someone you don’t really know, will never know, and may also put your own life at risk.

    IF YOU HAVE TO HAVE TWO INCOMES TO LIVE THE GOOD LIFE, then scale down your lifestyle. IF YOU HAVE TO HAVE TWO INCOMES (OR EVEN JUST YOUR OWN), find an accredited, well respected child care facility and go there.

    This is scary, sickening, and will probably end up an LMN movie. the worst it is the better it sells.

    PS As to the moron who says toilet water can’t kill a person, look to Africa and the Third World, where people die by the thousands by drinking the same water they poop in and wash their clothes in. Honestly! How ignorant can you be? Just for fun, buy a cheap microscope and look at a slide of toilet water. See all those microbes crawling around? And why are we cautioned all our live to WASH OUR HANDS AFTER WE GO TO THE BATHROOM? Come on. And regardless of the method, she TRIED TO KILL HER EMPLOYERS. AND HER “ADVISOR” TOLD HER TO SHUT UP. AT LEAST ATTEMPTED MURDER AND ACCOMPLICE TO ATTEMPTED MURDER. PERIOD.

    I read all the previous comments and ask only: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Believe it’s fake, or not, but address the goddamn issue instead of parsing words and screwing around with the basic issue. Millions of mothers and fathers rely on nannies — whether they really need them or not — so this should be discussed, whether you think it’s a fake or not. CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

  9. In this day and age, I could well believe in the truth of this story. As an investigator, I would quickly undertake to ascertain what medical cases were active that might fit that scenario. A married couple, likely urban, with young children and a former young nanny who abruptly left their service… and suffering from an illness consistent with cholera. That should narrow it down a bit! Once you’ve identified the couple, tracing the whereabouts of their despicable poisoner should not be difficult. As a private investigator, I might be a little creative in the apprehension.

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