A Little Privacy Here, Please?

When circumstances allow, I like to give myself a little time to breathe and reflect before reacting to something that angers me.  So this post relates to a news item from a little over three-and-a-half weeks ago.  I’m still mad.  I read the following headline: “(Prominent Politician) Gets Secret Weight Loss Surgery!”  (*Note: the “secret” here does not refer to a prototype or not-available-to-the-public procedure, but to the fact that the person who had the procedure done didn’t announce it to the world when he had it done.)  Since the headline ticked me off, I figured I’d read the article.  Annoyance was confirmed.  And each time I’ve looked back at the article over the past few weeks, I’ve fumed.

A person’s medical decisions, when not made public, are not “secret.”  Secrecy implies that someone is hiding something, and implies that other people have a right to know about it.  “Secret” is not the correct word here.  The proper term in this situation is “private,” as in “none of anyone else’s business.”  HIPAA covers “privacy” rules, not “secrecy” rules.  A medical decision is a private matter, concerning a patient and his or her doctors, and only those other individuals that the patient chooses to include.  A person certainly has a right to publicly share his medical information if he so chooses, but there is certainly no onus upon him to do so.

The article includes references to multiple public questions and comments about private health concerns, including a public comment from a prominent physician, who had never examined, met, nor even spoken with this politician.  I am well aware of today’s general erosion of privacy, but at times the presumptuousness of people simply blows me away.  Unless they are either the patient or the physician of record in regard to a specific medical issue, any politician, member of the press, and anyone else, for that matter, needs to get out of that doctor’s office.

I feel a little better now.  Maybe I shouldn’t have held that in for almost a month.

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