Freedom of speech, responsibility, and conflicting life roles

If people had single roles in life, our paths would be so simple. We would have our lives laid out for us and we wouldn’t have much reason to question nor would there be too many conflicts to worry about. However, adults rarely have single roles. For instance, an adult may be both a neighbor and a mom. Or a dog owner and also, a tenant. These roles can conflict.

The idea is simple. As dog owner, the dog needs to go for a walk, say, at 6:30 am. But as the dog owner, also tenant, descends her stairs with Fido, the other tenant on a middle floor complains that Fido scares him as they walk past. The dog owner has responsibilities both as dog owner, to get Fido out, and also, as tenant, to respect the neighbors.

A fellow blogger has asked the question, “How much Freedom of Speech should teachers have?” He then mentioned different situations such as casual remarks made in grocery stores or on social media that might not be so appropriate, or a political rant in the classroom.

Here, I believe the basic concept is dual roles. Teachers are adults. They aren’t just teachers. They might be parents. They’re citizens of a country. They’re voters. They’re members of Facebook. They’re adult children of older parents. They’re neighbors and community members, too. They may hold second jobs in other fields, both related and unrelated. For instance, if a college professor is given a lengthy winter break, he or she may wish to work at a ski area and ski for free! Almost all adjunct professors either hold several adjunct positions or freelance in some way to make ends meet.

Any of these dual-role conflicts and cause a conflict related to Freedom of Speech. The rules of the classroom may or may not extend outside the classroom. I would guess each school system or college has its own policy. I believe these policies should be updated and should be very specific. This would help when conflicts arise. The old policies need to include a social media policy. They also need to take into account the policies of the social media venues themselves, along with the local and national laws.

My own life was deeply affected by a dual-role conflict involving exercising Freedom of Speech. Medical professionals and other professionals are bound by law to keep confidentiality. These laws have always existed. More recently, HIPAA was put into place, which meant violating confidentiality was an even worse offense.

For instance, a medical professional cannot say, “Know that guy Adam that lives on___? He just ended up in the ER and they brought him to psych.”  I have witnessed “staff” doing that time and time again. This is a violation of Adam’s privacy, and that’s an inappropriate use of Freedom of Speech since it’s violating the terms of the job. They are trained not to do that! I actually went through that basic training as hospital volunteer. If I went through it, why can’t these “professionals” follow simple rules? It’s because we all have dual roles in life. The professionals are also neighbors, churchgoers, Bingo players, and golfers.

As patient, I wasn’t bound by HIPAA. People don’t realize this, but we as patients do not get HIPAA training and these laws don’t apply to patients or nonprofessionals such as families and visitors. If a patient violates the confidentiality of another patient, it can be very serious, agreeably, but it’s not a HIPAA violation. Unfortunately, such squealing has to be handled internally or better yet, prevented.

Of course most institutions realized these things could happen. Say you have one 80-year-old woman in one room on the 4th floor, and another 80-year-old woman next door. They’re both out walking one day, helped by aides, and lo and behold, they recognize each other and say hello. They’re very happy to be able to converse.

There’s absolutely nothing anyone can do if one of them, Marge, upon release, says to her son, “Know who I saw? Remember Jeannette? She had gall bladder surgery.”

Has some crime been committed? No! Marge was not bound by HIPAA. Only those working in the facility are bound by these rules. Yes, it gets sticky all the time! Visitors to a psych ward might run into an old friend there recovering from alcoholism. “Oh Brian, we haven’t seen you for so long! How are you? Gosh it’s good to see you!”

As per facility, some might prep the visitors to  maintain confidentiality. Others try to keep groups separate. Often patients make requests for privacy.

What about my rights as writer and my own personal freedom of speech? For one thing, I signed nothing saying I wouldn’t write about what happened in individual sessions over the years. This is NOT violating the confidentiality of the therapist. The therapist isn’t exposing her innermost secrets to me, or isn’t supposed to, although I must admit one or two did.

I never signed a Yelp Review contract saying I wouldn’t write a bad review about them after leaving. Believe it or not, a group of dentists got together and made it their policy to have patients sign statements saying they wouldn’t write bad reviews of them. This of course has raised legal questions. The retaliation factor runs huge here as well.

Retaliation against patients who expose facilities is illegal. Retaliation of all sorts is so common that I see such stories in the news almost daily. I have even spotted laws whereby a judge can deem an individual’s actions retaliatory and this can affect the fine he levies upon that offender.

What happened was that after I was abused in Massachusetts General Hospital they then realized they needed to get rid of me. I was a patient of my psychiatrist, but they weren’t going to allow me any further “care” at their facilities. They feared that I would find fault with it and then, write about what I found distasteful or harmful. Doing so is legal on my part. They don’t have to like it. On the other hand, I could have loved the care and written that, too. If it was decent.

I honestly feel that facilities and individual carers have nothing to fear if they are honest and deliver what they promise! For instance, if I go to a particular professional and the payment is laid out to me upfront and honestly, if the services turn out to be as advertised, if the job is done well and nothing extra or unnecessary is on the bill, then I’ll be very happy! I’ll be extra happy with exceptional workmanship, promptness, and a coupon for the next visit. Or a coupon for free groceries.

MGH knew already that they did not deliver as promised, that their services involved gross human rights violations (this is not an opinion, but a legal fact) and also, they knew that they didn’t want anyone talking about it or writing about it. The obvious answer was to deny care. Illegally.

So this is what happened. I called them asking for a therapist. They said no, that insurance didn’t cover. I thought about that one and asked around. Why would MGH not take Medicare and Medicaid combo? What I did, ultimately, was to blog, publicly, that MGH didn’t take these insurances, or that for reasons unknown to me at the time, they had refused mine. I had no idea that their refusal was due to my blogging about the 2011 abuse, due to their own fears and paranoia. To publicly state that I had been refused was completely legal.

What happened next was that I was terrorized by my psychiatrist. She told me I had to stop writing about MGH. This was actually quite a bit later, April 2013. I’m not sure, but from her demeanor, she was completely out of control, not in good form at all, with raised voice so loud that I worried it could be heard in the other offices, so from what I could tell, she was running off at the mouth and maybe leaked stuff that she later regretted. I also found the experience embarrassing.

She said I was denied a therapist due to their fears about my writing. She said I was a “liability case” and they’d denied me for that one reason. She said that MGH did indeed take my insurance but due to my blogging they couldn’t have me there.

To write about treatment isn’t illegal. I never signed papers. I don’t write about other patients and their particular petty issues which is the usual worry when confidentiality problems arise between patients. In fact this wasn’t their concern at all. They shouldn’t even have worried if they didn’t already know they violated basic human rights. Since they knew already they were guilty, they knew the very first thing I’d do would be to expose these violations to protect other patients. Why? Because while I may have been a patient, I am also a writer, a person who has the capability of writing this stuff down in words, and I also care about my fellow human beings since I am HUMAN. I write this stuff out of sacred obligation to you all out there. I do not get paid a cent. I do it because I care.

What happened next? I quit my psychiatrist since her threats were just too much. When I was unlucky enough to end up in another hospital, as soon as they made contact with my psychiatrist, the hospital personnel abused me, in attempt to silence me in any way they could, again fearful of my pen.




Feedback and comments welcome!