ASK THE ETHICIST
I work with a dozen others in a city office building. One colleague says that she has an autoimmune disease. She says that we must keep the windows in our small office closed at all times; if we open them, she becomes ill. Our boss has offered her a separate room, but she refuses to move. What is the right thing to do? We are all miserable, and productivity is very low.
What’s harder than balancing the needs of one against the needs of the many? Doing it during the heat of summer, in an unventilated room. Your boss has proposed an elegant solution to this conflict, which addresses your colleague’s concerns and keeps the rest of the staff happy.
Your colleague probably doesn’t want to sit in a separate room because she prefers company. But her preference shouldn’t prevail on your office’s need to have people do their jobs productively. There is also one little problem: her request does not make much sense.
Dr. Roy M. Gulick, chief of infectious diseases at Cornell University, says that closing the windows does not help an autoimmune disorder – in fact _____( I )_____. When it comes to germs, adequate ventilation can reduce the chance of spread from one person to another. The woman in question with the autoimmune disease probably is more likely to become ill by being in a crowded room with the windows closed than in the same crowded room with the windows open.
Helping a sick colleague is an ethical obligation, but so is getting the facts straight before asking people to inconvenience themselves. In this case the remedy that brings you fresh air may also bring your co-worker better health. Open the windows and rejoice.
By Ariel Kaminer
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