On Ambulance Chasing

Recently, I posted a blog entry delineation of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, AZ, focusing on the angle that the shooting could be used specifically as a decumbiture for Giffords, as the target of the shooting. I had posted the link up on my Facebook page, and one of my friends, who is not an astrologer, but is in the medical profession, had some questions and concerns about the propriety of the post. The purpose of this piece is to consider her concerns, and to discuss the issue of the ambulance chasing that virtually all astrologers and students of astrology do.

First: this was my immediate response to my friend:

I’m sure you’ll find this case discussed ad nauseum on astrology boards. Astrologers simply cannot stop being ambulance chasers. But I do understand your comment. However, news articles discussing the removal of the skull and the rest of it hardly set up a climate for confidential medical data. This is the current reality of being a celebrity.

But you raise an interesting point. Astrologers are often very nervous about medical astrology, because of any appearance of practicing medicine without a license. Having just completed my book on medical astrology, one thing that is very clear to me: astrology has never been considered a form of medicine. Astrology at most had an adjunct role in timing a disease or treatment, or in helping to choose an herbal remedy.

As for the ethical concerns, I’m not sure I would have chosen to present this chart had the prognosis shown as death. A couple of months ago, when the New Zealand mining accident occurred, I ran the chart for the explosion, and concluded the miners were dead. I was sick, and watched the news with increasing alarm until the announcement was made. I couldn’t bring myself to publish the chart.

Do we go over the line when we discuss a case which has not played out in its entirety? I have been really thinking about this question since I wrote this.

Health practitioners have always valued confidentiality – for all the right reasons. But let’s not kid ourselves: this has never been absolute. Medical records can be subpoenaed in court – and this includes psychiatric records in divorce cases. While at first this might seem like a really good idea relating to custody, we also have to acknowledge that, these days, psychiatrists are often little more than purveyors of prescriptions, who often spend little time with their patients. Thus, such information can be inflammatory, without necessarily being revealing.

Let’s also not kid ourselves about the effects of Obamacare. In 2011, physicians are being mandated to move their record-keeping to what will become a massive medical database. How much privacy will there be then?

With the massive decrease in the cost of permanent storage, privacy is about to disappear, except between our ears. Recently, I had called up a financial company to make a change in my account. In order to verify that I was who I said I was, they asked me to verify an address that I lived at in 1988 – long before the popularity of the Internet, and in the era when I had personally assumed would probably never be computerized. The next time I logged in to the real property records in my county, I discovered that they now have the records computerized back into the 19th century – the last I knew, it was 1980!

Once a year, it seems, the American Federation of Astrologers goofs up and sends a press release to their members in which they forget to hide everybody’s e-mail address. There is simply no telling about inadvertent leaks and deliberate hacking.

But if privacy is a rapidly disappearing concept, should we as astrologers contribute to it? I suppose that depends on your definitions. In my blog, I revealed no confidential information about Giffords’ condition. In fact, the details about her case were pretty sketchy at the time, and I certainly had no access to anything that anyone else in typing distance of Google didn’t also possess.

So: is a prediction confidential? Giffords is not a client, so again, I have no special access to information through private sources. And I don’t even have her birthchart.

So: is a prediction confidential? What I did in the prediction was theoretically what any astrologer of a medical bent, looking at the shooting time as a decumbiture could have done. In that sense, I have to say, I don’t think it’s confidential.

So: is a public prediction unethical?That’s really the question. As I indicated in my answer to my friend, I do think we need to exercise judgment about what we choose to say publicly about public events. In the past, astrologers have been able to hide behind the fig-leaf that, since our status in much of the community at large is that we are automatic charlatans, that this gives us carte blanche to say whatever we want, because no one will take us seriously anyway.

In a blog-ified world, what we say can end up in the strangest places. Whatever else is going on, I would hope that we don’t add to people’s distress. As I was predicting that Giffords would recover, that prediction was not likely to upset anyone on the right side of sanity. I am thinking of how distressed Giffords’ husband was when he heard the initial incorrect report of her death on the shooting. On a human level, that is not what any of us want to create.

So my conclusion is: think before you write. And always remember that what used to be ephemeral may end up haunting you fifty years later. But within the parameters of conscious consideration, we have to be able to ply our craft.