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Old 03-03-2008, 09:57 AM
Mr Ian
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Default Nurses & Speculative Gossip in the public eye - is it unethical?

Ok, here I am on the back of another thread where we got into discussing a well known personality and her troubles as blasted coast to coast, continent to continent.
So what's my issue?

Even tho someone is in the public eye and there's plenty of coverage/gossip/media attention etc much of the 'news', as ever, is speculative Hollywood Dramarama - OK magazine and Hello kinda stuff - "Is she pregnant? Woman walks within 15 yards of Sean Connery and now she's carrying his love-child" or "Is this Brad's woman on the side? Mystery woman serves him a meal and he smiled at her AND left a tip"

Now I don't begrudge anyone their daily intake of paparazzi and mediamania if that's their desire - tis the nature of 'celebritism' in this westernised world.
However, where I feel uncomfortable is where we hybrid that 'gossip' style speculation of mixing the media snippets with our professional opinion.
There we all were (me included) procrastinating and speculating about what ill and woes this one celebrity may have befallen and casting opinions on how messed up she looked.
I have no issue with the ongoing discussions about post-partum etc and the issues in general of pregnancy, motherhood and even coping under stress; but in regards how the thread began, I have two feelings on this:

1. I can't abide celebritism. We fall in love with 'characters' - not the people. We idolise the 'spin' or the 'impression'. It's so bad for me now that I can't believe for one minute that Angeline Jolie is actually doing the things she does for the good of someone other than her image! (Sorry Ang! Blame Hollywood) (Unless of course it's all a publicity stunt). This is of no relevance to my thread - but I just wanted to say it cos it drives me nuts.

2. As a nurse I have a privileged relationship with my society - not just my patients. I don't think the nurse-pt confidentiality or the nurse-pt 'respect' issue only exists in the context of those with whom we have direct contact. As nurses in the UK the NMC mandates you are a nurse "at all times" and certainly within a nursing forum we are representing our profession.

What we are also doing is representing what we might do 'behind closed doors'. Jo public who can freely join this forum can sit and read about our expert insight into this and that - and we are casting a professional nursing opinion about an identifiable person - a "patient" - maybe they're not in my hospital or yours - but still they are a person in need of support and receiving care.

Analogy: If you had a person on the roads in your town being attended by an ambulance and a lay person says to you "That person hasn't looked right to me all day - been walking around with a limp and smelling of his own urine and making no sense ever since he got in that fight over a bottle of wine - bloody hobo"
You might be interested from a professional point of view what was going on - but would you then sit and discuss with your nurse friend who was with you all about differentials like diabetes, head injuries, alcoholism, #NoF and syphillis in the presence of this lay person - or quietly move away somewhere private if you wanted to compare notes?

As a profession I agree it is not wrong to discuss general situations and clinical issues - but when they are clearly tagged to the speculation of a known individual - are we not just gossiping?
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Old 03-05-2008, 02:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr Ian View Post
As a profession I agree it is not wrong to discuss general situations and clinical issues - but when they are clearly tagged to the speculation of a known individual - are we not just gossiping?
Is there something wrong with gossiping? The fashion mags gossip about what people wear. The music groupies gossip about who the band members are sleeping with. Nurses gossip about the medical lives of celebrities.

Well, seriously, I do see your point. The difference is that we are professionals.

As for the thread you are referencing, I do believe that there was a significant amount of discussion related to PPD, etc.

People like to discuss people that we know. If you and I had a friend in common who was having medical difficulties, would we not discuss that friend at all? Answer honestly. I think we would.

Although celebrities are not our friends, they are still people that the collective "we" know-in-common and sometimes their situations make for interesting conversation. It isn't just celebrities, either. If the US President (or more likely Vice President perhaps!) were having medical difficulties, should we not discuss it?

There was in-depth discussion about BS on another message board that I frequently visit. It was a group of women (I don't know if any were nurses) discussing a celebrity's problem with probable PPD and how we felt about what her children were going through, etc.

Was that discussion wrong? Lots of people had different theories as to what was going on, but I wouldn't call them expert opinions.

I don't think our opinions could be considered "expert" either... we were opining on a situation that we only know bits and pieces about.

I think perhaps on some level it may have been "wrong" for us as nurses to discuss it, but my moral compass just isn't dinging. I'm usually a fairly moral person, so I just don't know why that is
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:59 PM
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Couple of rebuffs (and thank you for putting up an argument - as I'm not sure I know yet where I fall - but my moral compass was dinging)

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Originally Posted by geenaRN View Post
Although celebrities are not our friends, they are still people that the collective "we" know-in-common and sometimes their situations make for interesting conversation.
Under the new P/J protocols should that read "g-we"?
(Sorry, couldn't resist)

I think I'd agree that I would have a speculative conversation with a colleague about the clinical issues - such as was the benefit spin-off from the discussion thread on PPD. But I would do this in private, or perhaps at most might discuss with a patient if I thought the "gossip" topic was of relevance to their clinical situation, as public figures are often good examples to use for other fellow sufferers to highlight the patient is 'not alone' and *it* (pick any condition) can happen to all people.

I do feel tho that in regards the 'expert' opinions - regardless of whether we are or are not - the public believes we are - they trust us with blind faith (nurses more than doctors most times) - so if we (? g-we) started speculating that the President looks like he's ripe for a heart attack - the lay-person is more likely going to believe us - because it comes from 'nurses' - and we know stuff! So if we start saying 'she got this or she's got that' when we don't really know then perhaps we should brandish our opinions with more caution? To be honest, and I'm not following the media frenzy so have no idea what the "official" media story is nowadays- but since the thread started on BS and has now turned into a discussion on PPD - who's to not think that BS has PPD? Cos a bunch of nurses over on nursingvoices seem to think so.

I think there's a 'public interest' in discussing issues that also happen to be part of a public figure's ife - it helps raise awareness. Often those public figures accept and even promote themselves to raise awareness - eg Christopher Reeve. I think he might have been 'happy' for us to discuss the issues of spinal injuries and what it means to be quadriplegic, but I remain concerned that some of the prior convo discussed possible causality of that episode was merely speculative. This equates to nothing more than magazine-gossip. But, if indeed BS resolved her issues and disclosed she'd had a major PPD episode - she may well promote the issues herself - and I'd be all for talking about how "BS had PPD" and this is what it means and this is what you can do and this is how it affected me/my spouse.

Maybe my moral compass dings because I also find the whole 'celebrityism' (that spends more time talking about their lifestyles and private lives, as opposed to the actual 'work' they do like sing, act, play sports) annoys the out of me!
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Old 03-05-2008, 05:56 PM
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But I thought the whole original thread started just because someone (a nurse) thought that the way that the press were portraying BS and her difficulties were wrong. The original issue therefore was not the person and her illness but the way in which the press thinks this is public property.

In a way this is advocating for the person behind Hello or OK magazine, rather than buying into the celebrity thing.
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Old 03-05-2008, 07:51 PM
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They say that gossip is good for peoples work lives and makes work more enjoyable. I don't think anyone on here can say that they are an expert in a certain field and thus can provide a diagnosis (esp a psychiatric one) on a celebrity. However through the back and forwards g-we were able to express some views, get these views corrected, distress about the amount of hype it was getting.

Do I think this is a bad thing, No, not when it is being kept inside a forum like this and everyone understands that generally people do not go out of their way to insult others, and any views that you don't appreciate could be a mis-understanding on either side. (EG. I never knew that PPD could last more than a year, now I do)
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Old 03-08-2008, 07:42 AM
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I think I have big issues about 'celebrity gossip' that influence me greatly on this issue.
I greatly enjoy the work many celebrities do - but they don't do it as 'celebrity' person - they do it as actor or sportswoman or even an influential politician. But the number of magazines and the like - and the people who buy them - that think because they are in the public eye for what they do in work means we have a right to pry on their private social life really offends me.
I'm at the point where I think 'celebritism' is soon to be a diagnosable condition. The damage it does to people is disgraceful and yet our society condones it and encourages it.
If iot wasn't for the celebritism, Princess Diana would be alive today, undoubtedly. So to George Best. Perhaps too Elvis. However, these people all had problems in their lives and I don't think the invasive opinions offered by media and society ever helped one of them.

Whether it's an 'ethical' issue in nursing to discuss matters as I described above - I can't decide for myself because of this overwhelming anti-gossip ethos I have.

Thanks for the input of opinion guys.
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Old 03-16-2008, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr Ian View Post
I greatly enjoy the work many celebrities do - but they don't do it as 'celebrity' person - they do it as actor or sportswoman or even an influential politician. But the number of magazines and the like - and the people who buy them - that think because they are in the public eye for what they do in work means we have a right to pry on their private social life really offends me.
You know, Mr Ian - I think you do have a point. I think I have always been of the opinion that when celebrities are going after the brass ring, they should just assume that once they become famous, they'll be in the public eye and thus hounded for all the days of their fame.


I also think that publicists are to blame as well. Their jobs are to promote their clients, and I believe that they tip off the media as to where their client will be so that they can be photographed, etc. Does the celebrity know this? I don't know.

Being an actor/singer/etc should not automatically allow g-us to follow along with the intimate moments of their lives. Unfortunately, people have a strong desire to know how the other half lives and will shell out some money to read all about it. It may not be morally right, but it's reality.

That a death was caused by this obsession (Princess Di) and it has not been curtailed in the least - that says a lot about us as humans, and it isn't good.
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