People mag on Britney's 5150 hold

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Source: People

In late-January & early-February, People magazine published multiple articles about Britney Spears's second involuntary 5150 hold that began on January 31, 2008. Let's focus on just two. All of the information in these articles is credited to anonymous "sources" and people who have no direct involvement in the case.

I'm going to have to editorialize a bit since these articles are so frustratingly out of line. While People isn't known for it's journalistic bona fides, this is just incredibly inappropriate & harmful.

January 31, 2008 8:20pm

Britney had reportedly been in the hospital for less than 24 hours, which author Michelle Tauber confirms was planned in advance. A few mental health professionals talk around what commonly happens in such cases while not specifically saying that they're discussing Britney Spears. The author frames their statements to strongly imply that they're describing Britney's case.

"Two sources" told People that Britney has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Violating a patient's privacy by revealing a diagnosis is incredibly inappropriate and illegal if done by a healthcare practitioner. Even if someone claims to know a patient's diagnosis, it is unethical for the author and editorial team at the magazine to publish that information.

Most dangerous for public health is the final paragraph, in which "Dr. Mark Goulston, a Santa Monica psychiatrist . . . [says] 'If she’s driving and she’s actively bipolar she is a danger to herself.' " However, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder doesn't mean that a patient is so dangerous that they shouldn't be allowed on the streets. Bipolar patients are not all reckless maniacs. Promoting false negative stereotypes about mental health conditions is harmful, Dr. Goulston.

February 1, 2008 8:00am

"Sources" share that Dr. Deborah Nadel instigated Britney's second 5150 hold starting January 31, 2008. Britney recently chose Dr. Nadel to begin treating her (it is implied that this treatment pre-dates the 5150 hold). Most of the article explains that Dr. Nadel is really good at her job. I still can't figure out if sharing the name of a patient's physician constitutes a HIPAA violation. It's medical information, but not treatment information. Seems kind sketchy and disrespectful.