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Unread August 21st, 2005, 10:31 PM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 105
Default Re: Ethics of reality tv show

Your description initially sounded like child abuse and inappropriate (arguably illegal) exploitation, by both the network and the parents. I was thinking that kids of that age probably don't have the capacity to consent to things like that; consent to something that is presented substantially inaccurately is generally invalid anyway; and valid consent from a parent for a child must be in the child's interest, or at least for something not likely to harm the child. But now I've had some further thoughts. But I've mellowed during the past few hours.

The thing that bothers me most about this is not the "Brat Camp," but the parents' consenting to have their children identified and (very probably) embarassed in front of millions of people. (I am assuming the children's images, voices, and/or situations are identifiable on the program.) The network no doubt has had the parents sign complex contracts with all kinds of disclaimers. Nevertheless, it seems to me that neither the parents nor the network has the right to expose the children and their experiences to such publicity.

The "camp" itself may be a different matter (I plan to have my office contact the network for details). Properly designed and implemented wilderness and "boot" camps have a fairly good track record for inducing lasting, positive change in some very disturbed, often antisocial, people. Assuming a "best-case" scenario, what if the network has contracted with a reputable treatment program, with reputable professionals, to offer clinically-appropriate treatment for kids who need a "last-resort" intervention? That would imply that the parents are simply agreeing to a slightly unusual (not all that unusual) treatment program, probably accompanied by a30-page contract with 29 pages of disclaimers.

Of course, the network will exploit the experience for low-brow national "entertainment," highlighting the screams and tears, which sucks (even if the network tries to defend it by saying they are publicizing ways to help desperate kids).

Given a last-resort antisocial or aggressive kid who is destined for a pretty horrible adulthood, I have little problem with parents' sending their kids to reputable wilderness and boot camp programs, provided they do so with adequate knowledge and in good faith. And although I generally vote for honesty with patients, there are times when it is O.K. to "ambush" the patient, especially a child or adolescent, in order to save him or her.

Once again, I cannot think of a good reason to publish the child's image or identity; that part seems beyond the pale. Even if it is somehow "legal," it seems abusive and far from the best interests of the child.
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