Medicine Is The Best Medicine

"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.

This week, the proprietor of a liquor store gets told how to do his job, and a health care worker wonders if ridiculous homeopathic cures from outer-space should or should not be performed on people who recognize that the 60s ended more than 35 years ago.

Our family has a wine-and-liquor store. Occasionally we get phone calls from distressed people asking us — often pleading with us — not to sell their loved ones any liquor or wine because of alcohol abuse. How should we respond? — D.F., New York

When I was in college, I worked at a wine-and-liquor-and-Pop-Tarts-and-magazines store. It was a great place for a young person flush with the enthusiasm of moral experimentation to work, because you could steal all your groceries (as long as all your groceries were macaroni and cheese and frozen taquitos) and get drunk on the job. It also taught many important lessons about the way the world works. For example: a drunken 19-year-old can in fact legally confiscate the fake ID of a twenty-year-old hoping to get drunk. He can then tape the confiscated fake ID to the side of the register and scrawl the words "I ♥ Cock" with an arrow pointing to the underage mouth. You know, the way the world works.

When you receive one of these calls from a so-called concerned family member, the best course of action is to take a sip of the Mountain Dew and gin you have in a twenty-ounce bottle under the register and hang up on them. If they call back asking to speak to the manager, tell them that you are the manager, and then hang up on them again. Then, when the alcoholic family member comes in looking for whatever will be easiest to hide in the tank of a toilet, turn up the Yo La Tengo album you're listening to and start reading the latest issue of Hawk magazine. Whatever you do, ignore the customer. When you see them approaching the counter, quickly pick up the phone and call your roommate to talk about your plans after work to bring home a couple of forties and some Flamin' Hot Cheetos and how they should bring home that screener DVD of the new Hal Hartley movie from the video store where they work, and also about how that one girl from your Statistics in Poetry class wants to fuck you, but she wears Tevas which kind of flies in the face of your strict "No Sex With Someone Who Wears Tevas" rule. If the customer has not left the store at the end of the conversation, hang up and begin masturbating through a hole in your pocket to the new issue of Hawk.

Will this solve anyone's problems? Maybe not, but it is the only way I know how to work at a liquor-and-wine store.

I work at a hospital where several nurses practice therapies like healing touch and therapeutic touch, said to adjust a patient's energy field and thereby decrease pain and improve healing, although there is no significant evidence for this. If those nurses believe in these treatments, may they tell the patient they are effective? If the treatments provide merely a placebo effect, telling patients about this lack of evidence might undermine that benefit. Would that justify withholding the information? — name withheld, St. Louis

You may withhold your name, but you may not withhold your face.

Medicine Is The Best Medicine

I'm pretty sure that you can tell people whatever you want about the benefits of healing touch. If they're retarded enough to believe it, then they should be dead anyway, so your medicine-less hospital full of laughter and irremediable organ failure is going to be the best place for them.