On Confidentiality: A Resolution
In honor of the new year, I have updated my title page to include the below:
I love my job. I am privileged, honored really, to do what I do. People share the intimate details of their lives with me in the simple course of my day-to-day work, and I am in awe of this. I have great respect for their privacy. And while I am willing to share the details of my own life, this does not extend to the lives of any of those around me (at least, as of January 2015).
To my patients: I never write about a specific case. For example, if I see someone in clinic who is very sick, and the case is challenging, and I want to share that, I think back to other similar cases. What are the salient, relevant features? It’s not going to be the specific details, but rather, describing how this was challenging to me. Did the diagnosis elude me, was I not confident in my skills? I try to focus on my emotions, my lessons learned. Then, I paint the picture using invented descriptors and data. Any names and potentially identifying information, including physical findings and case details, are omitted or drastically altered. If the real patient was an elderly woman with pneumonia, my essay will feature a young woman with pyelonephritis. I do this to comply with HIPAA regulations, as well as to be nice and ethical.
To my family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, kids’ teachers, parents of my kids’ classmates, mailman, hairdresser, butcher, etc, etc: I have learned the hard way that any writing that directly alludes to a real person in my life had better be positive and complementary. Past blog posts of mine that consisted of venting have caused pain, and for that, I am deeply sorry. These have been removed. (For the record, there were two.) If I have a beef with someone, I resolve to go to them, rather than to these pages. This project will not be a place for personal vindication.
To the guy that tried to run me down as I crossed the road: On these pages, you’re toast. Obnoxious strangers will be subject to all manner of venting. Take heed!