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“Illness has recently emerged from the obscurity of medical treatises and private diaries to acquire something like celebrity status,” Professor David Morris astutely observes. Great plagues and epidemics throughout history have won notoriety as collective disasters; and the Western world has made curiosities of an occasional “Elephant Man,” “Wild Boy,” or pair of enterprising “Siamese Twins.” People now reveal their illnesses and medical procedures in conversation, at work and on the internet. This paper explores the reasons why, despite the celebrity of disease and a new openness about health problems, privacy and confidentiality are still values in medicine.


medical privacy, journalism, right to control health data disclosures, right to choose solitude or seclusion

Publication Title

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Publication Citation

151:3 Proc. Am. Phil. Soc'y 300 (Sept. 2007).