Friday, April 13, 2007

Who is to Blame?

I completely missed this news item when it came out in January. Apparently a radio station in Sacramento, CA had a contest dubbed "Hold your wee for a wii". Listeners were challenged to drink bottles of water every 15 minutes and whoever could hold out the longest without going to the bathroom would win a Nintendo Wii. One of the participants, a 28 yr old woman named Jennifer Strange, mother of three young children, DIED as a result of water intoxication. The family is now suing the radio station for wrongful death.

I am troubled by this. The whole concept of the contest offends me. But waiver or no waiver, at what point was it the Radio station's responsibility for what the participants did? I think the death of Jennifer Strange is clearly a tragedy. Buy why was having a Nintendo video game system so important that she would put her health in jeopardy and ultimately lose her life? Should the radio station or the DJ involved be held legally liable for her death?

If someone suggests, invites, or even demands that I do something, in the absence of threat of bodily harm are the consequences their fault or mine if I choose to comply?

The force of social influence can be powerful indeed, as demonstrated repeatedly by the experiments of Stan Milgram. But ultimately, shouldn't we each accept responsibility for our own choices?

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