April 19, 2024

The ethics of Santa Claus disclosure

There is quite a bit of literature in bioethics journals about the ethics of telling white lies to patients, especially with terminally ill patients. There is much less discussion about a far more common ethical conundrum: whether children should be told the truth about Santa Claus. This, thankfully, has been remedied. Two psychologists have written an article in The Lancet Psychiatry arguing that children’s moral compass could be permanently deranged by the disappointment of learning that their parents have been telling them lies.

Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia and a co-author, told The Guardian: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

The psychologists follow in the footsteps of Richard Dawkins, who saw through the myth of Santa Claus at the tender age of 21 months. He told a conference in 2014: “Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism? I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism.”

We’d like to open up comments on BioEdge to a discussion of this issue. 

Michael Cook
Should you tell children, No, Virginia, get over it, there is no Santa Claus.