Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Right to Know vs. Privacy

Several months ago, we had an email from a 25-year-old woman I’ll call Meryl who was adopted when she was a toddler. Recently, she learned that she had a twin sister, knew where her sister was living and the names of the couple who had adopted her. She called her sister’s adoptive parents and identified herself, but was warned by them not to contact her sister. Why? Her sister did not know she was adopted. Her parents had never told her and had no intention of doing so now. They were worried about how she would handle it and how they would be viewed by her for keeping her adoption a secret for so long.

Meryl wanted to know what to do. She didn’t want to ruin her sister’s life or create a problem between her and her parents. Yet, she felt her sister was entitled to know she had a twin. What if medical issues emerged in the future that would make it important for the two women to be in contact? What about the emotional fallout of being separated from your twin sister?

We told her it was an ethical decision, requiring a determination about whose priorities were the most critical. We referred her to Art Kaplan, head of ethics at the University of Pennsylvania who helped her craft a plan.

How do you think Art Kaplan advised her? What would you have done? Tell us what you think.

No comments: