The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dear God What Next? 

The City of New York has officially turned Orwellian. No - I'm not talking about them searching through subway passenger's bags, I'm talking about this (emphasis mine):

A century after New York became the first American city to track people with infectious diseases as a way to halt epidemics, officials here propose a similar system to monitor people with diabetes, a non-contagious foe.
"There will be some people who will say, 'What business of the government is it to know that my diabetes is not in control?'" said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's health commissioner.

The answer, he said, is that diabetes costs an estimated $5 billion a year to treat in New York and was the fourth leading cause of death in the city in 2003, killing 1,891.

By pinpointing problem patients, then intervening ever so slightly in their care, Frieden said the city can improve thousands of lives. "I don't think we can afford not to do anything," he said.
The city's program wouldn't initially get consent to collect data, but would allow patients to opt out later. The database would also be tightly controlled, off limits to anyone but department staff, the patients and their doctors, health officials say.

Over time, doctors could receive letters, telling them whether their patients have been getting adequate care. People who skip checkups might get a note from their doctors, reminding them of the dangers of untreated diabetes.

Among other proposals to intervene ever so slightly in their care were the following:
  • Citizens with diabetes would have restricted rights to use subways and taxies in the city, and would no longer be eligible for driver's licenses. This of course is to promote walking among those who need to do it most.
  • Citizens with diabetes would have to register and wear a GPS tracking device that would alarm any time they came within 500 feet of a fast food restaurant.
  • Citizens with diabetes who miss a recommended doctor's appointment will be arrested, and while being held for 24 hours (for their own safety of course), will have a full physical performed by the prison doctor.
The New York City Council was also looking into changing the city's nickname from "The Big Apple" because it seemed to encourage an attitude that being big and rotund was acceptable. Among potential new names was "The Big Banana". Some members of the council also suggested "The Big Plantain" in order to appeal to New York's more multicultural atmosphere. However members of some religious groups protested the new nicknames calling them phalic and grotesque. There's just no satisfying some people is there?

Update: Just another random thought on this issue. What do you think the reaction from various organizations would be if the City of New York suggeested tracking people who test positive for HIV without their consent? At least HIV is contagious while Diabetes is not. They wouldn't get away with that idea for 2 seconds... so why is this acceptable?


How about pinpointing problem mental health patients and "intervening slightly in their care" (IE having them take their meds)...that would be a much more useful big brother program. Of course, that's a question of a protected minority's rights, and those are sacrosanct.

  Posted at July 26, 2005 10:50 AM by Blogger Be  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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