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In the discussion thread: medical privacy [View all]

Response to blackcrow (Original post)

Sat Jan 3, 2015, 04:27 PM

1. It's slippery.

I see and hear all kinds of "personal privacy violations" when I sit in a doctor's waiting room.

Usually I don't know the people's last name, so it's no big deal. Moreover, I really don't care, so no use is ever made of that information.


The problem is that by airing the scene and not disguising his voice, he was identifiable to a small set of people. But only to a few, given how stale the footage was. And only after his death. Unlike, say, publicizing his image (which is searchable) or his name or other identifying information. Even the second person had a deniable question: "Was that Mark's voice?" "Couldn't have been." "Oh, sorry for bringing it up." It's like having your first hickey in a location that's not readily visible. You know it's there, so it's like it's blinking neon. Nobody notices, but you really can't figure out why. It's important to you, and embarrassing, but really, few care. We're all the center of our universes, so obviously we're at the center of everybody else's. Funny, how perspective works (or fails to work).

The rest of the privacy violation was the family's responsibility. Because they didn't understand that what they knew and what they thought important was not known to others, who really didn't care anyway.


The reason for HIPAA is straightforward. Information from medical treatment can be used in a variety of ways that hurts the patient. Employers find out you have cancer or a psychological disease and things change. Siblings might use the information in a harmful way. Perhaps you don't want your kids or your congregation to know that you have yet another STD. But HIPAA is a two-edged sword, as many have noted. It means people who really need to know for good reasons can't be told.


Some states have medical privacy laws that end at death. You die and your privacy rights die with you. Corpses have no privacy. So your medical records can be accessed by anybody that the doctor says okay to. Other states don't: I needed my aunt's death certificate because she was ahead of me in the list of survivor trustees on my parents' family trust, as executor of my father's will, and was a person of interest in my mother's custody/guardianship case. But my aunt had died. Her state protected medical privacy after death: Since her DC said what she'd died from and that was protected information, I had to have a valid legal reason for getting a copy (none of mine were acceptable, since they were all civil proceedings out of state) or I had to get a member of the family who was entitled to access to sign off on my request. My father died in a different state. While his DC lists his cause of death as "suicide" and "gunshot wound to the head" anybody can purchase a copy of my father's DC.


The Chankos' view is interesting in another way. The bad tv folk put Mr. Chanko on air so that death voyeurs, in essence, could see mayhem and family suffering in a realistic way. This is a bad, decadent thing to do, and it's immoral and should be illegal.

But the Chankos saw the footage when they watched the show. And they were upset that a friend recognized the man's voice. As they all, it would seem, engaged in mayhem voyeurism. Perspective.

"We built that."

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