Join Associate Professor Leslie Cannold for a dissection of the recent decision to publish the latest work by Gabriel García Márquez.

Dr Leslie Cannold is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Impact and Cranlana’s Resident Ethicist. She was recently invited to speak with Tony Moclair of 3AW Afternoons, to question the ethics behind the controversial publishing of the renowned and beloved author’s final novel.

Read through to access the edited transcript of the conversation, or listen to the full episode by following this link:

 

Tony Moclair: Thank you so much for joining us, Leslie. I appreciate your insights. How are you doing today? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this intriguing topic. Many individuals have experienced the challenges of caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but this situation adds a unique layer. From an ethical standpoint, how do you approach it?

Dr Leslie Cannold: Well, actually, I don’t find it all that unusual. We all have desires and wishes for what happens after we’re gone. We draft wills, outlining how we want our affairs handled, including our end-of-life care. For artists, writers, and creators, there’s an added layer concerning their body of work. They have their own intentions for their creations posthumously. In this case, the sons faced the dilemma of respecting their father’s wishes regarding the unfinished manuscript. He didn’t want it published, yet they chose to release it anyway.

Indeed, it’s an ultimate gesture of trust. So, to me, it feels not very ethical. The act of going against their father’s explicit wishes seems to betray that trust, casting doubts on the ethicality of their decision.

Tony Moclair: Okay. Is that because a dementing person can’t consent? And in this case, he couldn’t consent to it being published?

Dr Leslie Cannold: Consent is critical here, and we don’t know if he did or didn’t have the capacity to deny consent to publication. It’s certainly possible that after he got a diagnosis of dementia, that he would have made the decision not to consent, and had the capacity to make that decision at that time. Just because you get the early signs of dementia doesn’t mean you’re not capable of making a decision that has legal and moral force because you are are still compos mentos generally, or of making that particular decision about his own body of written works.

In ethics we tend not to talk in absolutes: that you’re either competent to make every decision or you got no capacity and you can’t make any decisions. It’s a decision per decision assessment, with the aim being to allow people to make as many decision as they can for themselves if they are competent to do so. I would have thought that the decision that you would make after you got a diagnosis about something that’s primary to his life as writing and his sense of his own legacy, that he would have had the capacity to have said at that stage that he didn’t want this work-in-progress to be published. And if that’s at the point where he did say it, then I believe the justifications offered by the sons for going against his wishes and publishing anyway is rationalization. For whatever reason they had, they wanted to do something different.

And as I said, he can’t come back at them. So they’re free to do that. And the only thing that really impinges them is their honoring of what his wishes were.

Tony Moclair: Okay. I’m going to put this question to you as an associate professor of ethics. With all that considered, could you sit down, if you’re a fan, and I don’t know if you are, but he’s Could you sit down and then in good conscience read this book?

Dr Leslie Cannold: I feel really uncomfortable about the book being out there. Now that it’s out there, it feels like a separate question again, as to whether or not I should read it. But I feel very uncomfortable with the fact that that’s the decision they made because it feels like a rationalization and a betrayal of trust. I’m particularly sensitive to that thing. If somebody made me an executor of a will or a person’s work, I would honor what they told me to do, regardless of how I felt about it.

Tony Moclair: That is a beautifully considered answer. Leslie, thank you. I really appreciate that.

Dr Leslie Cannold: It was a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much.

This summary of the original recording has been updated for brevity and clarity.

What do you think was the right way to act and now that it’s been published, is there an ethical way to read the work? We’d love to add you to the conversation we’re having online. Share your ideas here.

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