If you had reason to be confident that your promptings would guide her to a life as a happily married mother, it would certainly be ethical to proceed. You’d be offering a gift of friendship. But I suspect you don’t have reason to be confident about this. And you’ve identified the downsides: adding to her anxiety, sparking her resentment. It is an important maxim, widely ignored, that intervention is a good idea only if it is likely to make things better. Many people think that a mediocre partner is better than no partner at all. And depending on their character and temperament, they may be right.

At the gym, I often see a woman who appears to be severely underweight; I can’t help thinking that she may have an eating disorder. I’m not a medical professional, I don’t know her, I don’t work at the gym and I don’t have any information that isn’t plainly visible. I don’t want to intrude on her privacy (for all I know, this woman may have some other underlying medical condition and already be receiving medical care for it), but at the same time, it’s difficult for me to see someone looking so painfully thin. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen this woman at the gym for a year or more, which suggests that her weight is relatively stable, albeit very low.

What is the most ethical course of action? And how would it be most helpful to engage with this woman if ethics demand that I can’t simply be a bystander?

Name Withheld

You know almost nothing about this woman and have no relationship with her. Unless she’s completely friendless, there’s almost certainly someone who is better placed than you to judge whether she’s ill and, if so, to help her deal with it. Maybe that has already happened.

You don’t have very good reason, in short, to involve yourself here. And bear in mind that one feature of eating disorders is a preoccupation with how you look to others; being addressed by a stranger in a gym who is worried by your appearance is likely to exacerbate that problem. Shame is part of the psychic burden of many eating disorders (she may be struggling to recover from it), but so is a profound body dysmorphia. Hearing that she’s too thin may have the opposite effect than what you intend, by making her feel pleased that her behavior has succeeded in making her look the way she wants to look. As I cautioned in my previous answer, we should intervene only when we’re likely to make things better.

I recently started a new job. During the application process, I was asked if I would be applying to graduate school in the near future, as their intention was to have the new hire stay on for two to three years. At the time, I was not intending on applying to graduate school, but this has since changed. Must I inform my new employers of my change in plans? There is a chance I may not be accepted into a program or receive enough funding to attend. I also took on personal risk by moving to the other side of the country when accepting the offer.

Name Withheld

Unless you promised your new employers not to apply to graduate school, the truthful answer you offered in the interview was what you owed them. You might consider sticking around for a year, though, so that you could give them a good chunk of what they’d been hoping for. That you’re not obliged to do so doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a decent thing to do.