After actor George Clooney was recently involved in a motorcycle accident, staff at the New Jersey medical facility where he was treated allegedly sneaked a peek at his file and possibly leaked private information to the media. Reportedly, some forty hospital employees were suspended without pay following the incident.
Privacy is something that Americans take very seriously, especially when it comes to the state of our health. The experience of visiting a doctor is enough on its own to make us feel quite vulnerable: we have to wait until the doctor is ready to see us, regardless of the time of our appointment; sometimes we may be asked to pay upfront before we’ve even seen the doctor (or, in the case of a new doctor, even met him or her) without knowing if we’re going to get the service(s) we are paying for; we have to strip down to our skivvies; and we have to answer all kinds of questions which make us uncomfortable.
And, many things we say and the results of every test ordered are written down and placed in a manila folder. What happens after that is truly out of our hands (if it was ever even in our hands in the first place). We don’t know where the manila folder goes once we leave - what hands it passes through, whose eyes glance over its contents, or into what computer system it is entered.
The fact that most of us visit a doctor at all is truly a testament of our faith in the concept of confidentiality. Or desperation in needing treatment.
Can we avoid visiting the doctor to prevent private information slipping into the wrong hands? Well, we theoretically could, but it wouldn’t be good for our health. The fact of the matter is that there will always be unknown factors in life.
It’s as sure as the fact that there will always be uncomfortable doctor’s visits in life - the kind filled with bottom-revealing gowns, cold examining room tables, and personal questions about family history. So those of us living with chronic health challenges, such as incontinence, must continue our quest for health and learn to either shrug off the unpleasantness, or develop a sense of humor about it.
Oh, Mr. Clooney’s response to the incident? “…while I very much believe in a patient’s right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers.” Such a class act to accept the inevitable risks associated with his fame
For more on George Clooney’s health records, read: