Amy Winehouse & responsibility

July 25, 2011 BY danariely

The recent death of Amy Winehouse should make us pause and consider the question of personal and shared responsibility.  Was she solely responsible for her tragic outcome? Or was it somewhat the fault of the people around her?  How do we want to think about the state of mind of a drug addict?  And what does that say about their ability to make good decisions and hence their responsibility?

I am almost sure that if I were a jury member being presented with a case of a drug addict who committed a crime while in a highly emotional state of drug craving — that I would equate this state of mind to temporary insanity, and would find this to be a mitigating circumstance.

And if being in a state of drug craving can be considered a mitigating circumstance, shouldn’t this tell us that we should not expect too much personal responsibility from people who are in this state of mind?  And shouldn’t the people around them (particularly the ones working with / for them) take control?  There is a very nice saying that “friends don’t let friends drink and drive,” and I suspect that this rings even truer of drug cravings.

P.S. To clarify, my point here is not that Amy Winehouse is not to blame for her decisions, or that her friends are. Rather, I think that we need to back down from our chronic obsession with personal responsibility and realize that there are times when it is necessary to step in to help people who are not in a state to make the right decisions for themselves. Who knows, maybe the next Amy Winehouse’s daddy will try a little harder to keep her in rehab when she won’t go, go, go.