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privacy

ZAGATA: Doctor-Patient Discussions Private? Little By Little, Confidentiality Goes

Column by Mike Zagata, June 8, 2018

Doctor-Patient Discussions

Private? Little By Little,

Confidentiality Goes

Mike Zagata

Are there circumstances where it’s OK to violate your privacy? It might be OK if you make an informed decision to allow that to happen – but what if you don’t?
Have you heard of HIPPA – the Health insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996? If you have, you probably have a sense of comfort that it protects conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others.
Does it really do that, and are there times when it’s OK for your doctor, now known as your primary-care physician, to divulge information learned about you during a visit to law enforcement officials?
Does the doctor face an obligation to do so? It’s not your doctor’s fault if they do as they didn’t volunteer to assist your government.

Why these questions? If you’ve had a recent doctor’s appointment, the following questions might sound familiar: “Do you feel secure at home?” and, “Are you depressed?”
What is likely to happen if you answer “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second?
If you’re a firearms owner, you’re likely to receive a visit from the state police and see your firearms depart with them. You may also receive a visit from the folks at Social Services in an effort to determine if you’re the victim of spousal abuse.
The goal is to reduce the likelihood of domestic or other forms of violence, e.g. school shootings. That’s a laudable goal. However, does it, at the same time, violate your right to privacy and lead to the breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship? Is it the best way to achieve the goal?
As with most issues like this, there will likely be opinions on both sides of the issue. That’s one of the many benefits of living in America. The fact that we are losing our privacy right at an alarming rate is just that – fact.
The debate has already been held – by someone somewhere – and the decision made to allow that to happen.
Do you want your driving habits to be recorded each time make a trip to the grocery store or church? Do you want your location recorded each time you dial a number or utter a voice command on your cell phone? Do you wonder why you receive certain e-mails from marketers who seem to know your buying habits?

Yes, our cars and mobile phones offer convenience – but at what cost? To those of us who are older, this cost represents change and thus we are likely to be aware that it is happening. But what about the next generation?
This is life as they know it and therefore not perceived by them as a threat. You can be certain there will be more change – change they may then perceive as a threat because it’s different from that to which they are now accustomed.
It will happen incrementally over time and, at some later date, those of us still alive will awaken to the fact our lives are no longer recognizable and ask: “What happened?”

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive in Fortune 500 companies, resides in West Davenport.

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ZAGATA: ‘Big Brother’ May Be As Close As Your Next New Automobile

Column by Mike Zagata, May 25, 2018

‘Big Brother’

May Be As Close
As Your Next New Automobile

Mike Zagata

If you haven’t read George Orwell’s book “1984”, now would be a good time to read it. In the book, Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party (Big Brother) scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful eyes.
Winston chooses to defy a ban on individuality by daring to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia – both are punishable by death.
I remember reading it and thinking, “This could never happen in America.”

I was wrong. It is happening each and every day, and it’s not just “Big Brother” that is keeping track of everything we do and attempting to establish new mores about what is socially right and wrong.
The “Left”, joined by a liberal media, is also changing the rules and holding those who don’t agree with them accountable. I recall when, in the 1960s, Berkley was a bastion of free speech. Today the liberal campus is torn by riots in protest of a conservative speaker. What happened?
Whether or not you like our current President, I’m hoping you’re shocked by the behavior of the FBI with regards to its pursuit of justice. We don’t spy on our own citizens without just cause – we just don’t do that. Or do we?
And if we do, does a majority of the American public support it? I hope the answer is a resounding “No”, because, if it isn’t, any one of us could become tomorrow’s “target”.

Technology, as suggested by Orwell, has made it ever easier to keep track of everything we do. Our cell phones are used to track our habits and patterns and the information collected without our being aware of it is sold to those seeking to exploit us.
I received an unsolicited report via e-mail from my new vehicle telling me that during the course of the past month I had come to an abrupt stop 16 times. It went on to report that my driving habits were better (whose definition?) than 85 percent of other monitored drivers. If that is true, I hope I don’t meet one of them on the highway!
You may not be aware of it, but a new partnership among Cornell, Syracuse and DEC will allow them to monitor, without your being aware of it, how you are stewarding your land. If you are not managing it for “sustainability” (not sure whose definition is being used) you could be subjected to some form of punishment; for example, not be allowed to sell your timber into the marketplace.

I wrote this because the changes that are occurring are subtle and thus often go un-noticed when taken one at a time. However, when taken in their totality, they are having an enormous impact on our lives.
Consider the camera on Chestnut Street just East of “Nick’s Diner” that monitors your speed. The day will come, as it has in many cities, when it will initiate the process of issuing you a speeding ticket and cameras don’t care if you’re a townie or from out of town.
Is it time to think about how good we had it in days past? Is there a way to return to them? There was a time when we had five police officers in Oneonta and the SUNY campus had a custodian with a broom for security.

Mike Zagata, a former DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 8
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, APRIL 8

Join Red Cross Fire

Prevention Campaign

14-19eventspage

HOME FIRE PREVENTION CAMPAIGN – 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Volunteer with the local Red Cross to install free smoke alarms, complete fire safety checklists, and create personalized fire escape plans with local families. Sign up @ www.redcross.org/local/new-york/eastern-new-york/home-fire-safety or call (315)733-4666

HEALTH SUMMIT – 1:30-4 p.m. Dr. Kevin P. Hill, Harvard University Medical School, presents “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about Medical use and Legalization.” Free and open to the public. Room 202 Johnstone Science Center, SUNY Oneonta. Info, www.hartwick.edu/news/hartwick-college-2017-health-summit-focus-marijuana/

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