Thursday, July 15, 2010

Informing Parent of Non-Paternity

Terry Rosell
July 15, 2010

When assigning a case dilemma as part of a final exam a couple years ago, 30+ grad students in bioethics overwhelmingly opined that disclosure should be made of the non-paternity matter.

Respondents disagreed as to whom disclosure should be made, some favoring the (non)dad, some the (presumably promiscuous) mom, and others the (adult) child. The better students provided rationale for their moral sensibilities, of course. Some others didn’t do so well on that exam question…

A couple physicians, when asked for an opinion, recalled a boards exam question like this for which the “correct” answer would be nondisclosure. Some stem cell transplanters have told me that their practice, too, almost always would be nondisclosure of nonpaternity data arising from blood tests for stem cell donor compatibility.

So it may be that the popular sense of the “ought” (disclosure) is at odds with professional practice and norms (nondisclosure). We once (or twice) tried, and failed, to get money to study that hypothesis.

My own sense is that the ought (or not) of this issue is more situationally and relationally complex than can be tested in boards exam questions for which there is one supposedly right answer—and that the majority of my bioethics students’ essays demonstrated cognizance anyway of this complexity whether or not they could justify adequately their gut responses.



Anonymous Hanan said...

Interesting take. Sam Vaaknin speaks about this in lengths in his book Bioethics and Population (

Friday, July 16, 2010  

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