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Dear Heidi: My friend is endangering her health. Should I intervene?

Friendships can be messy. Here's how you should approach it.

Friendship is not unlike a marriage; there are highs, lows, and a lot of compromises—even when things don't make sense.

You write that your friend is endangering her health and you could intervene, the question is, should you? Well, the answer is complicated, from every angle.

Your health information is one of the most personal and private aspects of your life. It’s so important that there are strict laws to protect your health information. But, if your friend has confided in you about her ill health; diabetes, among other issues, and she is of sound mind, then you are in a precarious position.

You want to be supportive and help your friend and her health. You offer suggestions and maybe even purchase some needed vitamins or give trips to the doctor. Your friend appreciates your concern and mentions the trouble she has cooking for herself. So, you kindly organize and engage a website that helps friends schedule and deliver meals and note your friend's diabetes and diet restrictions.

All is great, and you feel good about going the extra mile to help your friend receive healthy meals from her circle of friends. Then, your friend goes crazy because she feels you have broken her confidence and revealed something about her health that she doesn't want to be known.

You oblige and adjust the meal delivery website and omit the bit about diabetes and dietary restrictions, and the meals start appearing. Smoothies, cookies, bottles of wine, and an assortment of inappropriate food for a person with diabetes arrive every day and are eagerly consumed by your friend, who feels her diabetes isn't "that bad." Meanwhile, her health is deteriorating.

Here is your Rubicon. Do you intervene and tell the circle of meal delivery friends the truth about diabetes and risk upsetting your friend and possibly the friendship? Or, do you beg your friend to help her help herself and fess up to the group of friends? Finally, do you leave the whole thing alone and feel terrible about your friend's lack of self-preservation?

Etiquette dictates that we treat others as we'd like others to treat us, and we never want to offend. Etiquette teaches us to respect others and their wishes, even when they are not reasonable and don't make any sense.

My best advice is to continue to plead with your friend to confide in the small circle of friends who care enough to make and deliver meals. They, too, only want the best for your friend and have no idea they are hurting her with sugary snacks and meals.

Ultimately, the decision to make her health condition public, or not, resides solely with your friend--regardless of how harmful it might be. Now, you have some decisions to make. You could choose to stop helping her, look the other way, or intercept bad meals and replace them with good--most likely, far too cumbersome even for the best of friends.

My best advice is to plead to your friend's good senses and hope she entrusts her circle of well-intentioned friends with her medical information and begins to help herself.

I hope your friend appreciates how much you care about her and values your friendship as much as you seemingly do. Unfortunately, you are in a very difficult position. I wish you luck with your fragile situation.


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