Guest Post by: Khalil Perry, student
Is there an ethical problem with doctors spying on your social media accounts to make sure that you are following their health orders?
The emergence of social media has changed the way our society communicates and interconnects forever. At the drop of a dime, one can network on a variety of social media platforms of all different realms. Some use social media to promote businesses and brands, while others use it to connect with their favorite celebrities. However, recently many issues have come up surrounding personal privacy and social media. Is it safe for all of our information to be so public? This has always been the ethical issue surrounding social media amongst all of its glory. For years, many employers have been using social media to look into the lives of potential and current employees. A positive for a business, but a negative for people working or looking for jobs and who may like to have a little fun outside of work. Regardless of your opinion on that, what if I told you that doctors are now using social media to spy on patients? What if you needed a transplant of some sort, but your physician happened to do a background check on you and finds a social media account of yours with pictures of you doing unhealthy activities, such as drinking alcohol? What if they denied you the transplant? Welcome to the new, harsh reality of a new technologically advanced era!
In a recent article on NBC NEWS website, a discussion came up that discussed doctors spying on patients. Specifically, one man who needed a liver transplant was denied when pictures surfaced of him binge drinking. Though he already had a history of this and went against his doctor’s orders to stop drinking, the question is, how ethical is this of the doctors? Just because somebody is causing harm to their own body, does that mean that they should be denied medical help? As the article described, it’s almost like a “death sentence.” For example, if one’s back really hurts and pictures showing them doing physical activities surface, should they be denied medical treatment? Or, if you are experiencing issues concerning high blood pressure and pictures of you surface at a BBQ eating ribs, are you then also denied medical treatment? How far will this go? Now, that is not to say that if one doctor denies you, another may accept you. Nevertheless, the fact that social media may now play a role in your medical treatment is a scary and disturbing thought.
I believe that physicians using social media to spy on patients to see if they are following their medical advice are acting unethically and immorally. I know that many people in this world are foolish and do bring many medical issues upon themselves (through eating poorly, smoking, drinking, etc.), but that should not make sick patients live even more miserably, searching for the “golden doctor.” If you went to school to be in the medical field, it shouldn’t matter how the person got to their physically vulnerable stage. It should be about the love of helping people in need of medical treatment. If this does emerge as a popular thing to do, just how far will physicians take it? For example, if one is injured in an unsafe neighborhood, will the doctor say, “Well, he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Find somebody else to take the bullet out of his heart.” I believe this is completely unfair and disturbing. All people have different learning experiences and it just may take that near death experience to stop doing whatever it is that is harming their bodies. Simply put, social media started out as something very helpful and accommodating. Moving forward, I’m just not sure any more as social media becomes more and more a nemesis used against us. Who knows what other ways social media will be used to spy on us in the near future. All I can suggest is that we all be extra careful about what we are putting on the Internet about ourselves!