Sunday, December 4, 2022
Home HEALTH Readers criticize recent column; Amy responds - Chicago Tribune

Readers criticize recent column; Amy responds – Chicago Tribune

Dear Readers: I have heard from dozens of readers extremely concerned about my response to “Avoiding Amanita,” the question written by a man who spends a few days each month with a group of friends in a cabin in the woods.

In short: “Avoid” described himself as someone educated in biology with experience in the danger of eating forage mushrooms.

His concern had to do with the fact that his friends had found mushrooms in the woods and included them in a spaghetti sauce without informing him. Unlike Evitar, these men were not mushroom experts, and the next day they admitted their ignorance about the mushrooms they had picked.

Evita was rightly horrified when she learned that the entire group had eaten fodder mushrooms, which had been cooked in the sauce.

Fortunately, no one got sick, but his friends were now “mocking” him for his extreme concern.

Avoiding now was refusing to eat food cooked by them and I wondered if I had overreacted.

I responded that his friends had made a “dangerous choice” and urged him to be honest about his reasons for refusing to eat food they had cooked.

He also asked how to respond to this break in their long-standing bond of friendship.

Many readers seem to believe that I had endorsed the dangerous practice of eating mushrooms found in the forest. Readers have rated my answer everything from “egregious” to “potentially fatal”.

The man who wrote to me, a veteran professor of environmental sciences, emphasized in his consultation how dangerous it is to eat foraged mushrooms. (“Amanita” is a deadly mushroom, also known as the “Death Cap” mushroom.)

Also, I assumed it’s common knowledge that mushrooms can be poisonous and even deadly, and the huge response from readers reflecting how dangerous this was seems to confirm my faith in this common knowledge.

To repeat: NEVER ENTER FORAGED MUSHROOMS, ALONE OR COOKED INTO FOOD. Even a small amount can be extremely dangerous.

In my opinion, where I really missed the mark in my answer was when I suggested ways that Avoiding Amanita could overcome this incident, which was caused by disrespectful and irresponsible “friends.”

On second thought, I think this man now has two things to avoid: Amanita… and these friends.

I thank everyone for their emphatic concern.

Dear Amy, In response to the “Open Minded Daughter” question, and as a parent of donor-conceived children, may I recommend that donor-conceived individuals contact the Donor Sibling Registry?

There is much more to say (or write) that would be helpful to donor-conceived people and donor-conceived parents who may or may not have shared this information with their children.

Directing them to this resource would be a great start.


Dear Channing, Thank you. I heard from many people who responded to this letter, where “Open Minded Daughter”, an adult, recently found out through DNA testing that she was conceived through a sperm donor.

Open Minded’s parents hadn’t revealed this important fact to her, and although she seemed quite optimistic about her decision to keep it from her, other readers weren’t as understanding.

Criticism of my advice focused on the fact that I did not criticize these parents for not disclosing their daughter’s DNA heritage.

I was responding to the writer’s own attitude toward her parents, which was (at this point) extremely understanding and caring. Ironically, she had now taken on the reverse burden of revealing her DNA heritage to them.

ask amy


Sound advice for a better life delivered to your inbox every morning. For a limited time, subscribe to the Ask Amy newsletter and get the book “Ask Amy: Essential Wisdom from America’s Favorite Advice Columnist” for $5.

As I have said many times in this space, it is the right of every person to know their DNA heritage. This is a basic human right, and parents who conceive children through donation must tell them this during early childhood, and must continue to be open about this fact throughout the life of the person envisioned by the donor.

The Sibling Donor Registry ( is one of several resources available to donor-conceived persons (DCPs), helping them connect with DNA siblings and other biological relatives.

The US Donor Conceived Council ( also has helpful information for donors, parents, and donor-conceived people.

Dear Amy: Regarding the woman (“Anonymous”) who was upset that her brother and sister were incessantly bragging about their grandchildren… my mother once told me that she wondered if she was the only one who didn’t have perfect children, or the only one that does not lie.

– T

Dear T: Let’s print this wisdom on a t-shirt. I will be the first grandmother to use it.

©2022 Amy Dickinson.


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