Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Everyday Ethics: The Flu

So I'm still sick.... So what better to do than to philosophize?  Aristotle really gets it right when he says that philosophy is self-sufficient, you don't really need anything to do it, health included.

So I went to the pharmacy to pick up some more meds to dope myself up with in a losing battle to make my self feel normal.  I got to the register dropped it all on the little conveyor belt, and the nice checkstand lady started ringing me up.

Thats when it hit me.... She's putting her hands all over my medicine and food!  Now this isn't the usual concern of where has her hands been, but rather, my hands have been all over them!  Should I speak up and say something like, I have the flu, so you might want to sanitize after you get done with my purchase?
I'm very much actively avoiding other people, specifically friends and family so I don't get them sick, but what about strangers?  I can't avoid this particular stranger.  I need my food at the very least.  Shouldn't I at least extend the courtesy of a warning to her?

If I warn her, there are two possible scenarios that I envision, and both are really not about her particular reaction strangely enough.  The first is the best case scenario.  She sanitizes her hands and her station, and everyone around me (the other people in line) just go about their day like normal.  The second is that everyone freaks out, panicked in a media fueled hysteria about swine flu, as I plead vegetarianism and a complete lack of pork.  Okay so there might be some in-between there too.

If my warning will cause more harm than good, then why should I make the warning?

I find this scenario to be an awful lot like the white lie or the  "Does this make me look fat?" scenario.  A truthful answer may do a lot of harm, but there is no withholding of the truth.  In the flu case, I'm trying to prevent harm by telling the truth, but may inadvertently cause more harm then good by trying.

So like, many other cases, the white lie comes down to circumstances.  If my wife were to ask me this question while getting ready for an important meeting, I'd tell her the truth, to save her embarrassment.  But if she was just getting ready for work, where only 20-plus 3rd graders will be judging her significantly, I would tell her the lie. 

So is there a high degree of possibility that significant harm will be dealt here?  Sure.  Lots of people go to the pharmacy for all sorts of things, including the elderly, who are more susceptible to the flu than young'ins like me.  Sure there are people who might overreact, but better to overreact than to expose oneself to the flu.

So... Stay away everyone!  H1N1 death will visit you if you do not heed my warnings!  (I don't know if I have H1N1).

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