The Public-Shaming Pandemic

COVID-19 has caused the globe to reckon with a myriad of issues that it wasn’t prepared to address. As T.D. Max highlights in his article “The Public-Shaming Pandemic” one of these key issues is that of privacy. In particular, the right an individual has to keep their medical information private when it could impact the health of other individuals. There have been several instances were officials released some patient information to the public with the hope that exposed people could begin isolating. However, the public has often taken this information and identified the individuals who brought the disease into the community to publicly shaming them on virtual platforms. This has greatly affected these individuals as they have experienced some of the harshest bullyings while already at their most vulnerable.

With officials focusing mainly on the tangible health consequences, they haven’t focused on the abstract, ethical impacts of the pandemic. However, I feel that this is nevertheless an important debate that should take place concurrently with the pandemic – not after. While I personally feel that public shaming can be an effective tool for admonishing hurtful behavior, I agree with T.D. Max that it can be detrimental when applied to a single individual. Moreover, the effect is amplified nowadays thanks to social media. There currently exists no measured way for an individual to be socially reprimanded without it ruining their life.

Consequently, I feel that we need to enforce stricter guidelines on protecting patients’ privacy. Not only is there something to be said about one’s right to medical privacy, but it will also serve as a temporary safeguard while our global society establishes more online privacy protections. By increasing the barriers to access medical information, the public cannot dox infectious individuals, thereby increasing general online privacy for the entire community. Simultaneously, we need to keep insisting on the public health measures that guard the community against COVID (ie, masks, social distancing, etc.). In most of these cases, infectious individuals transmitted the disease incidentally; with proper safeguards, the community has little to worry about and would have no rational explanation for bullying the individual. However, these are just a few thoughts on the matter, and I would welcome discussion on tangible solutions/benefits on restricting access to medical records during the pandemic.

2 thoughts on “The Public-Shaming Pandemic

  1. Lee June Yun

    In the blog post, J Raymond takes important issues from T.D. Max’s article “The Public-Shaming Pandemic” such as the right of privacy and provides possible solutions to the problem of privacy violation during the pandemic.
    I mostly agree with the idea that a certain amount of public shaming is effective in admonishing social undesirable actions, such as walking around in crowded areas during a global pandemic. However, I believe that the way J, Raymond offers to only protect privacy of the individuals whilst simultaneously increasing safeguard measures does not seem to be very practical, as the very nature of a pandemic requires people to have knowledge about who had the virus and who visited dangerous areas to actively prevent the spread of a disease. Unless a totally harsh safeguarding process, such as an extremely harsh lock down which prevents people leaving their homes permanently, which is unrealistic, some level of public information sharing is required, and is ethically viable in the name of promoting the public good.
    Also, the issue of “public shaming” cannot be solely resolved by reducing COVID cases, as the cause for such shaming, as the article stated, is a collective defensive mechanism that activates to prevent socially undesirable actions from occurring. To prevent cases of suicide or mass online harass, I believe that the only solution is for the public to be less hate driven and forgiving about individual’s mistakes, which is not impossible as we have clearly made an improvement as a society since the era when we used to burn people for being witches.

  2. Iris Wickham

    J. Raymond does a very nice job summarizing the fundamental issues highlighted in, “The Public-Shaming Pandemic.” She focuses on the quintessential debate of privacy, and how much should be required in both the medical world and social media. Covid-19 has revealed the consequences of broken privacy in both fields, which has called mass public attention in several ways. J.’s intelligent point, “[one’s right to medical privacy] will also serve as a temporary safeguard while our global society establishes more online privacy protections,” suggests increased patient privacy will lead to safer online protection for those who may be vulnerable to shaming. I agree with this point. J. also mentions the lack of health officials focusing on abstract, ethical impacts of the pandemic. I, too, find that this negligence can have a pernicious effect on America as a whole. Mental health is arguably equally critical as physical health, and therefore the suicidal effect that public-shaming in Covid-19 has had, namely in the case of Dr. Rokita, is not something to be ignored. When and where can we break medical privacy on the rationale of protecting public health and safety? Is it worth it if those whose privacy will be broken will face public backlash and perhaps mental instability?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *