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Thread: What are the privacy rights of public figures?

  1. #1
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    What are the privacy rights of public figures?

    It seems there is a bit of a storm brewing over who is allowed to know about any health issues our Minister of Health may have.
    The disregard for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's right to privacy is cause for deep concern, the Registrar of the Health Professions Council of South Africa said on Tuesday.

    Registrar Boyce Mkhize voiced his concern about the "indiscriminate insensitivity and wanton disregard" of the minister's rights after she was admitted to Johannesburg General Hospital last Tuesday for treatment.

    The minister's health had been under the spotlight since she returned to work a few weeks ago after suffering a long illness.

    Tshabalala-Msimang was admitted to the same hospital last year for several weeks, suffering from a lung infection.

    "Every citizen of this country ought to enjoy full protection of the law and constitutional rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights," Mkhize said in a statement.

    "Every patient has a right to privacy and not to have their illness or ailment disclosed without their consent."

    Mkhize said the doctor-patient relationship rests on this pillar of trust, which was about preserving confidentiality of patient data.

    "No member of the public is entitled to know what the minister, or even the president suffers from, let alone the causes of such ailment as some excited journalists have attempted to establish."
    full story on M&G here
    So what are the privacy rights of public figures? What are we entitled to know?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Well, I think as far as medical and legal thingambobs go people should be able to keep their privacy. That should be a flat rule - start making exceptions and things get a bit hairy.

    Something else that caught my eye in the quote...

    "No member of the public is entitled to know what the minister, or even the president suffers from, let alone the causes of such ailment as some excited journalists have attempted to establish."
    ???? I wonder what is possibly being implied here..... ????

    I suppose the biggest issue is that the symptoms match a well know ailment that both Manto and Thabo have tried to discredit. If they admit that this is the case then they are BOTH discredited, if they say nothing (as is the case...hmmm seen that anywhere before? ) speculation runs rampant, and there is almost an implication of what is suspected.

    Why not just be up-front about the issues? Seems to me that ego and credibility are the big issues here.
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    Bronze Member Sieg's Avatar
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    Right to privacy

    Is our media not at fault for confusing the "Right to privacy" and their assumed "Right to disclose"?

    I was standing in the queue at SARS today (don't ask!) and had enough time to read the SARS charter. SARS says that you are entitled to expect SARS to respect your constitutional rights and privacy by keeping your private affairs strictly confidential. If SARS can do that, then surely our media can as well?

    There is an interesting Press Statement on the SARS website about Zuma's tax affairs and confidentiality. See http://www.sars.gov.za/

    When I am confronted by some absurd reporter demanding information, say about a client, my standard reply is: "You do not have the right to know, my client has a right to privacy and I am bound by the ethics of confidentiality not to disclose. Please quote me verbatim." [and will add, if you did not get that down, I will say it again slowly for you to write down properly because I know you cannot write very fast . . . ]

    Sieg

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I think there's a risk here of confusing what should be disclosed with who should be doing the disclosing.

    The doctor, lawyer or tax official is clearly not the person to divulge this information. They are obliged to maintain confidentiality regardless of the details and who is involved. But let's not confuse that piece of ethics with the publics right to know. If there is an entitlement to information, that information needs to come from the individual or their official spokesperson, not the practitioner.

    And when they don't speak up, is it any surprise that the media (and others) go fishing?

    For example, certain aspects of financial disclosure are contained in the parliamentary rules. These rules aren't applicable to private individuals... Of course, parliamentarians also enjoy certain protections we don't enjoy as ordinary citizens too. Slander is one of them, if I remember correctly. But it has to be said in a parliamentary sitting.

    Issues relating to "capacity to bear office" also seems relevant. It was considered applicable to the Tony Blair heart incident.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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