For the past several weeks, maybe more, I have seen story after story about Jesse Jackson, Jr., the Congressman from Illinois. The stories have centered around Congressman Jackson’s medical leave of absence from Congress.
Rumors regarding his whereabouts, and the medical condition for which he sought his leave, have been more than abundant. Apparently, yesterday, the Mayo Clinic confirmed that the Congressman was seeking treatment at their facility for evaluation for “depression and gastrointestinal issues.”
What concerns me most about these stories, which seem to be nothing more than gossip pieces, is the lack of concern for Mr. Jackson’s privacy.
Imagine for a moment with me, if you will. Let’s say I am transporting a patient to a mental health facility, and I notice you, my coworker, in the same facility, behind the doors. It would be an easy extrapolation to assume you were receiving treatment at said facility. Then I go back to the station, and over coffee with several other crews, I mention that I saw Mr. Blogreader at the psych hospital.
Did I not just violate your privacy?
Now, let us imagine some more. Let’s say that you and I work on the same shift, and we have for quite a long time. Now lets say that you notice I haven’t been at work for several weeks. You act all concerned, and maybe you are genuinely concerned, but maybe you want some gossip fodder for the water cooler, so you approach the supervisor, and inquire as to my whereabouts. “Oh, he is out on a medical leave of absence.” is the reply.
Did the supervisor just violate my privacy?
Continuing on, you ask the loose-lipped supervisor as to why I am on a medical leave of absence. “He doesn’t like people, and he is getting help for depression.”
Now, this scurrilous supervisor has most certainly violated my privacy rights.
But let’s say the supervisor told you to mind your own business, and to get in your truck and go run calls. Like he should.
“Hey, did y’all hear about CCC? He’s on a medical leave of absence!”
“Oh my gosh, what for?”
“I don’t know, it’s probably because he doesn’t like people. You know, he seems like he might be depressed. I bet he needs some Celexa.”
“He seems like the kind of guy that would do drugs. I bet he is in rehab.”
And you can imagine how this goes on and on. Because it does, every single freaking day. People gossip, and they love it.
But is it anyone’s business? Even if I am a member of Congress, do I still not have a right to privacy? Shouldn’t “medical leave of absence” be enough? Do we really have to get all up in this guy’s business?
I don’t care personally for Congressman Jackson. I don’t agree with his politics, and I think his father is a low-down, opportunistic race-baiter.
But I still think he should have the same basic rights to privacy that I do. If I approach my manager, and ask for a medical leave of absence, why is nobody’s business but mine, and my manager’s. I imagine Congressman Jackson approached his management in the House of Representatives in much the same way.
HIPAA shouldn’t be thrown out the window just because someone is a public figure.