Terry Prone: Entitlement to privacy is not diminished by receipt of social welfare

While the Beacon boss disappeared from public consciousness, the 'Dubai Duo' suffered public excoriation
Terry Prone: Entitlement to privacy is not diminished by receipt of social welfare

Pulmonologist Dr Martin Tobin, who testified during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, explained complex terms in layman's terms, without charging a fee. Picture: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters 

Day 185

Something about the public excoriation of the 'Dubai Duo' is bothersome. Or should be. They’ve been portrayed as deluded, vanity-driven welfare queens who deserve everything that’s coming to them and everything that’s already happened to them. 

We know what one of them looks like and we know all about their private medical issues. Judgements have been passed on social media about their parenting skills and sense of responsibility.

That’s in pretty sharp contrast to the treatment of the man at the top of an insurance company, who got the vaccination out of sequence, courtesy of the corporate generosity of the Beacon boss. 

Yes, one picture of him appeared, but it was an archive business shot, not a face-concealing, self-inculpatory picture like the much-used photograph of one of the Dubai Duo. 

Ignorance of the law (or guidelines) not being an excuse applies equally to the Dubai girls and the CEO. HSE guidelines could have been accessed and could have prevented the delivery of the shot.

Nonetheless, quiet consensus grew that it was unfair on him to have his medical details spewed onto mainstream media. And so say all of us. He didn’t need that.

Nor did the two girls need to have shared with the world that at least one of them was travelling for breast surgery because of psychological issues and the other was doing the same because of the need to correct previous surgery. But that’s what happened. 

One man disappeared from public consciousness, not least because of the ‘inquiry’ set up by the Beacon, which took the heat out of the issue and allowed the board to postpone action. 

Two young women stayed in the public eye and will, as soon as they get out of quarantine,  come under renewed pressure, this time from journalists begging them to "tell their side of the story". 

If they do, their bad place in public memory will be graven slightly deeper and their feeling of relief will be transient.

However, that’s not the point. The point is that their side of the story is none of our business, any more than the medical condition of the man who received the vaccination is.

They’re as entitled to privacy as he is. Them being on social welfare, last time I counted, didn’t reduce them to second-class citizenship. Let’s leave them the hell alone and wish them luck.

Day 186

 In the nature of things, most of us live through history as it is made. Takes a pandemic to make us notice it, though. 

The only other time I remember having this awed sense of living through history was when contraception and recreational drugs created the 'Swinging 60s'. I wasn’t in lockdown back then. Just scared straight.

Day 187

Because one of the things I do is train expert witnesses to clarify in court the significance of medical or other forensic evidence, I’ve been spellbound by an Irishman testifying in the case of the death of George Floyd.

Dr Martin Tobin looked at the infamous video again and again and again before he testified, and so was able to slow it down in court so the jury could see where, for a split second, Mr Floyd’s eyes widened. 

"That’s the moment the life goes out of his body," the pulmonologist told the jury, having, four minutes earlier in the recording, alerted them to the victim’s legs jerking,  and explained that what they were seeing were the outward and visible signs of "fatal injury to the brain from a lack of oxygen".

 The jury became totally engaged during his input and made copious notes, clearly struck by his clarity, certainty, and provision of detail in an understandable way.

"I don’t think I’ve seen an expert witness as effective as this," the New York Times quotes the former chief public defender of the county wherein the trial is happening. 

"He appears to be the world’s foremost expert on this, and he explained everything in English, in layman’s terms."

Tobin also set a precedent that won’t make him popular with a highly-paid cohort of travelling forensics experts. He did the gig for free.

Day 188

Every day, another case appears of a group of people getting the vaccine before they were entitled to get it. Some of them possibly because they lied on a website, but many of them because of the iron Law of Reciprocation, which says that when someone does something gratuitously generous or kind or thoughtful for you, you’re then left with a deep psychological instinct to do something of matching kindness for them. 

It doesn’t have to cost the giver anything much. At its simplest, the Law of Reciprocation is exemplified by those free bowls of stripy mints at the reception desk in American restaurants. 

Nor is there any overt implication of a quid pro quo. Instead, what is generated is a vague warmth. A warmth that doesn’t have to be referred to when negotiations or tenders or elections or promotions come up. 

It’s just there. Bought and paid for at a level that allows airy dismissal of any possibility of reciprocation down the line.

Generations of politicians have been slimed with accusations of receiving brown paper envelopes as part of the Law of Reciprocation. 

This time around, the item received was a needle in the arm and and those receiving it ranged from top management to charity workers and teachers. 

However, only those permitted to stay anonymous are likely to feel grateful enough to do a return favour to the giver.

Day 189

Don’t miss Dressed for a Dance in the Snow by Monika Zgustov. The author interviewed dozens of women sent, without cause, to Stalin’s gulag to be starved, beaten, raped, and humiliated for decades. What’s horrifying is how many of them found ways to believe Stalin had nothing to do with it. A few stayed believing until they died.

Day 190

First vaccination day is like a quadrille. You sit as allocated, with doctors and nurses poking their heads out of offices like the bird in a cuckoo clock, going ‘Damien O’Driscoll?’, ‘Rachel Burgess?’ and then retreating back into their office with the named person. 

When my name is called, someone nods to the doctor that I’m behind him, and it’s clear he’s surprised by my femaleness. (Me, likewise, sometimes). 

He goes through a list of questions and murmurs aloud that perhaps the last might not be that relevant. I correctly guess it is "are you pregnant?".

This is the first injection where I get impatient waiting for the jab and then find out it’s already been painlessly delivered. Fair dues to him.

Then the quadrille resumes. They keep you for 15 minutes and because every window is protectively open, freeze your ass before they let you out.

Day 191

Felled, I am. Sneezing so frequently, catching a breath is difficult. I’ve a swollen face, funny voice, weepy eyes. Vaccine side-effects? No. Just hay-fever.

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