LAST Tuesday, someone took a video of a patient being wheeled through the entrance of the emergency room of an uptown hospital. The man was obviously unconscious, another man can be seen vigorously pumping his chest in an effort to revive him. The effort was fruitless, it turned out. He was dead on arrival.
But sad as it was, there was a more disturbing side story to his passing, one that hopefully does not reflect how this pandemic has shaped us into ghoulish creatures instead of caring human beings.
The man died of a heart attack, his family was forced to explain later. That would not have been necessary; they were under no obligation to disclose to everyone the cause or the circumstances of a dear one’s death. No, not even even during the pandemic.
But they had to because the bastard who recorded the patient’s arrival without permission took one foul step farther by sharing the video via the internet. Soon after he did that, every chat room had a ringside view of the man who was soon to breathe or had just breathed his last, and just as quickly was flooded with snide comments about the shortage of rooms, the lack of medical personnel and other inadequacies of our hospitals.
The issue here is not the admittedly less than ideal conditions prevailing in our hospitals but our lack of respect for the privacy of others. The worst thing that happened with the advent of social media is that everybody thinks he is a reporter so that when he witnesses something unusual or hears rumors, he will post it on Facebook, with a photo or a video to boot, without even verifying the truth as any trained journalist would.
Take the case of the late Congressman Tony Cuenco, for example. How many times had he been reported dead on Facebook before he actually died? It came to a point where one of Tony’s sons had to appeal to the public to please stop the rumors about his father’s condition while he was battling for survival, and to pray for him instead. Now tell me, do you know of even just one of those who had falsely reported on Tony’s death on Facebook, who apologized for his mistake? Trained journalists do that.
The same happened in the case of former Sen. Sonny Osmeña. Early this week, one of his staff members also had to plead with the people who were falsely circulating reports that he already died to immediately stop. And just the other night, I received via Messenger a “report” that this and that public official or public figure are in the ICU, which was of course untrue.
I know that the pandemic has been harsh on our mental health. We are scared, irritated, uncertain, angry and everything in the whole gamut of human emotions. That explains why, with the exception of those who are just politicking, many of us have been incessantly grumbling. That is understandable.
What is not understandable is how we or, more accurately, how many of us, have made the death watch our pastime. The vultures at least descend only upon a carcass; some of us, on the other hand, make dead bodies out of those who are still breathing. Besides, the vultures do what they do for survival; some people do these for what, the perverse pleasure from being the first to report someone else’s misfortune? Now tell me, who between them have more honor?
Well, I have news for them. They can be held criminally liable for unauthorized disclosure of private or confidential information pertaining to a patient’s medical condition or treatment or for intentionally providing misinformation. The penalty is a fine of between P20,000 and P50,000 or imprisonment ranging from one month to six months or both fine and imprisonment.
So next time you feel the urge to forward a rumor about a person’s death or confinement in the ICU or to post a premature expression of your condolences on Facebook, think Republic Act 11332.