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Privacy, Free Will, and Subsidiarity | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Privacy, Free Will, and Subsidiarity

I love technology. Mail merges get me almost as excited as a good spreadsheet formula. So I thought nothing of having to enter my medical history online upon making an appointment to see a doctor.

Then I saw the questions being asked. Some were so offensive that I can’t type them. Others failed to acknowledge options for my situation; five years ago, I had a hysterectomy. So questions on my monthly cycles are irrelevant as there is no choice for no longer having them.  I refused to answer several questions on those topics, as well questions about my relationship with my children and my financial status.

When a question asked, what stress have you been under during the last 4 weeks, I answered, “I was asked intrusive questions for a medical database.”

HIPAA supposedly protects our healthcare privacy. However, the questions I was told to answer before I would be allowed to see my doctor invaded that privacy. After I completed the medical history, I called my doctor’s office, told them the questions were too invasive and if I were required to answer them before my appointment, I would cancel the appointment. They told me to answer the questions I wanted, and there were no problems when I arrived.

We have the right to say no.

However, it reminded me of an incident when I was pregnant with my son. I went through 4 PUBS during my pregnancy with him, where they inserted a needle into my stomach, into the umbilical cord in utero. My body was destroying his platelets, and they had to closely monitor his blood levels. Before the second PUBS, the anesthesiologist tied me to the operating table. I questioned her, and she said it was “policy.” I thought I had no choice. Afterwards, I spoke with the head of anesthesiology and asked if in future PUBS I could stay untied if I promised not to move.

The anesthesiology head told me, “If you didn’t want to be tied to the table, you should have just said no.”

I hadn’t realized I had the authority to just say no. Just because a database asks a question doesn’t mean I have to answer it.

I tell people in my social media classes that the best way to keep something from spreading online is not to share it. I believe the same to be true for medical privacy.

Coercing people to share things that make them uncomfortable is not only an invasion of their privacy but also negates their free will. As a friend of mine said yesterday, “God gave Adam and Eve free will and still gives us free will today. Health regulations shouldn’t take that from us.”

Finally, the creeping of big brother into every aspect of my life and that of my family violates the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. Under the principle of subsidiarity, social organizations exist for the benefit of the individual.  What individuals are able to do for themselves should not be taken over by society. If a small organization or unit can manage something, it should do so instead of being supplanted by larger organizations. In other words, my husband and I bear first responsibility for ourselves and our family. What we are unable to manage others can do instead.

Subsidiarity promotes a sense of personal responsibility. That in turn leads to greater self-reliance. And that in turn results in not only being able to care for our own family but being able to help others who cannot care for themselves.

The flip side of failing to honor the principle of subsidiarity is that when society takes over roles best handled by smaller groups or families, society will not do the job as efficiently. Further, it leads to a degeneration of personal responsibility and self reliance.

And when we lose our sense of personal responsibility and forget we can often solve many of our own problems, we will no longer recognize when our privacy has been invaded. Nor will we care. We will lose our ability to say no.

One Response to “Privacy, Free Will, and Subsidiarity”

  1. Tracy March 9, 2017 at 2:00 am #

    That’s a crajrekcack answer to an interesting question

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