Judge Ethical Dilemma
Kennon-Green & Co. Global Asset Management, Wealth Management, Investment Advisory, and Value Investing

Here’s a question that serves as an interesting ethical dilemma …

Judge Ethical Dilemma

The Ethical Dilemma: You are a judge in a developing country where family law leaves much discretion to the person sitting on the bench.  A single mother, 18 years old, gives up her child for adoption.  The child is adopted by a married couple in their late 30’s.  They rename the baby, and four years later, the father discovers that he has a son or daughter about whom he was never told.  He sues for full-time custody, having never relinquished his parental rights.

The Questions:

How do you rule?

Why do you do it?

Should the mother, in this case, be subject to legal penalties for creating the situation in the first place?

If you had a strong emotional reaction to reading this ethical dilemma, why?  What is the cause of the surge of emotion?  If you didn’t, why do you think that is?

The Considerations:

Does permitting the adoptive family to retain any contact with the child, or even full-time custody of the child, result in an incentive system that rewards such behavior of the deceptive mother?

If removing the child from the adoptive family’s home causes significant psychological trauma in the short-term, is that simply a necessary cost of rectifying a gross injustice?

If you believe the mother should be punished under the law, what do you think is appropriate?

Think about it.  Answer for yourself in private.  Or talk amongst yourselves.

By thinking through ethical dilemmas, it is often easy to identify flaws in one’s own thought process, areas of bias, as well as to reveal your true motivations, priorities, and values.  They are one of the most valuables tools I use in my own arsenal to increase clarity of thought.