The Dangers Of Exploiting Celebrity Tragedies

Portrait of serious paparazzi photographers pointing cameras
Portrait of serious paparazzi photographers pointing cameras

Celebrity tragedies are big business. Every aspect of their lives are covered in tabloids, daily news, and online publications. Magazine stands will always inform us when a star has cancer or when a couple splits up. We see videos of their outbursts that show them at their worst. The past five years has marked the loss of many memorable and beloved public figures, and each became a marketing opportunity for those willing to exploit their stories. These stars are so ingrained in our public consciousness that mourning is shared among fans. Tragic accidents sometimes take promising individuals from the earth too soon and we collectively seek to memorialize them.The worst of the ambulance chasers view this as a game to unveil the biggest celebrity scoop to the public.

Back in 2008, an administrative specialist at UCLA Medical Center sold confidential information to the media from the medical records of celebrity patients. The late Farrah Fawcett and her lawyers alleged that this is how the records from her battle with cancer were leaked to the National Enquirer. Leaking these records was bad enough, but publishing them to see papers is a bridge too far. Valerie Prater from the University of Illinois at Chicago notes that, "Privacy, as distinct from confidentiality, is viewed as the right of the individual client or patient to be let alone and to make decisions about how personal information is shared."

This blatant HIPAA violation for the sake of selling newspapers was clearly an unethical disaster for each victim's health privacy rights. Ms. Prater adds that, "Even though the U.S. Constitution does not specify a "right to privacy", privacy rights with respect to individual healthcare decisions and health information have been outlined in court decisions, in federal and state statutes, accrediting organization guidelines and professional codes of ethics."

While healthcare records are supposed to stay confidential, little else stays under wraps for long. Going to rehab has become a running theme in television and tabloids. These stories appear so frequently that it almost seems like the general public is numb to the gravity of drug addiction and abuse for these stars. For celebrities, maintaining that public image under constant scrutiny is daunting. The spotlight can erase any semblance of a private life. People who are overwhelmed will look for anything to relieve that pressure - it's a human survival trait.

The internet makes it easy to share every mistake globally in a matter of seconds. The famous might receive worldwide praise one moment. A week later, it might be worldwide scorn. It's a lot to handle and a lot to disconnect from. This type of criticism almost reinforces the behavior through humiliation. Most of us have never felt that kind of pressure to live up publicly to the private expectations of a judgmental audience. Movie stars, musicians, athletes, and any other public figure are all human. They have many of the same people problems as the rest of us. It doesn't matter how wonderful your life may appear from the outside looking in. We all face certain expectations and pressures and that makes life even more difficult. Celebrities have public lives but deserve private medical records, just like everyone else. Their emergencies and tragedies shouldn't be exploited for private gain and public scorn.