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Ethical Considerations Liver Donor

The Perils of Public Information

A comment was made on my post regarding Tim Wilson’s obituary. I couldn’t approve the comment because it contained identifiers that I had no way of editing, but I did want to address it here. (And yes, I’m breaking my own rule of addressing anonymous comments, but since it’s my blog, I’m allowed)

The comment was as follows:

I can’t find your email address to write personally, but as a friend of this family I am asking you to remove this posted obituary. This family has suffered greatly at the lost of both [redacted] and now Tim, and will be very upset if they google Tim (as I did) to find this.

Obituaries, by their nature, are public announcements of a person’s death. The key word here being ‘public’. Before the internet, a person had limited access to print publications, and generally only through the public library. Now, however, newspapers are online. Which means that obituaries are online (notice the link to the obit in the original post).

Tim’s family wrote the obituary and submitted it to the newspaper(s) in which it appeared. I simply repeated the text, adding a title and sentence of explanation so my readers would understand I wasn’t posting a random person’s obit for no reason.

While I have nothing but sympathy for the family and friends affected by this preventable tragedy, repeating this obituary is nothing but the proliferation of publicly available information. If the friends of the family are upset by the appearance of the obituary, they perhaps should discuss it with the people who composed it (who are not me), or the paper who originally printed it (also not me).

Lastly, glance to the right —–>

In the sidebar, three different websites are listed under the heading “Find Me At…”, each of which contain multiple email addresses. One simple click on any of those sites would’ve revealed active and current contact information.

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