On Sundays in the New York Times, The Ethicist column answers ethical questions posed by readers – sort of a sophisticated Ann Landers. Last Sunday, just before Halloween, the column was called “Annual Cavity Drive.” The column was a reply to a dentist who had written in about dentists who offer to purchase candy from their patients during Halloween for $1 a pound. The dentists then donate the candy to a food pantry. His concern was that the people who use the food pantry can’t afford proper dental care. So is it unethical for a dentist to donate candy for their consumption?
The ethicist didn’t see much of a problem with this as it occurs just once a year and he didn’t think it could make that much difference in a person’s overall health. But he suggested that the dentists donate toothbrushes and floss along with the candy. I disagree with the ethicist and agree with the dentist – I have long felt that the practice of giving away candy is unseemly for a dentist. It reminds me of my childhood when dentists would distribute lollipops to their well-behaved patients.
People always ask me if I give away candy to trick-or-treaters in Setauket. No, I don’t give candy. I hold out a basket full of coins and let the kids dig in and take as much as they can grab. They never seem disappointed. Maybe they will buy candy anyway with the money I give them – but maybe not! Happy Halloween everyone!