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Discretion Needed

Midi Cox
On Heritage (July 2016)

Friends Everywhere: In the last few months, there have been many notices of ill Friends on various lists, and the responses of other Friends have raised a concern for me. What is the appropriate detail of medical information to be shared on an email list about a member or attender at Meeting? I know that some Friends participate in various aspects of hospice, and they could share from their professional roles to help those of us on the sidelines understand where our role as members of Meeting for “holding in the light” is getting into the area of private information and where our advice, especially on open email lists, is not appropriate.

To me, such an email list is not appropriate for messages that ask for complete medical detail or to reveal such detail when the “family” has requested privacy. But what is the appropriate way for Meetings to be supportive of a member who is ill, to share appropriate information, and to limit discussion online to the respectful level? I don’t have any answer, but I do feel that what I have seen over the last few months has been out-of-bounds, in terms of what should be shared by email to a general list.

I suggest that Western Friend have a forum on this topic and share the discussion results with all. Maybe I am a little sensitive, but I know that the kind of details I have seen in email are not what I would want were I dying, and I did see one instance in which the initial report said “Our friend does not want us to know the details of the hospitalization, but we should hold the friend in the light.” Subsequent emails from others provided details the friend did not want shared.

– Midi Cox, Honolulu Monthly Meeting (PYM)

Healthcare privacy Pastoral care email

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