Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods - Medical Records Demand?

The car accident involving Tiger Woods is an interesting case, pitting privacy rights against the power of the state. The police sought medical records of Mr. Woods, allegedly because they wanted to see if his injuries were consistent with those from an accident. Obviously, they believed someone, perhaps armed with one of Tiger's golf clubs, assaulted him. (My suspicion falls on Arnold Palmer who probably got beat by Tiger on a midnight outing by the pair.)

Here's the problem. Whatever the reason for his injuries, there was no evidence of spousal abuse and more importantly, he did not file a complaint with the police. He never sought their protection. He has not sought a protective order from any court. Tiger Woods certainly has the money to do all that, if he chose.

Even if there was some altercation between himself and his wife, they still lack an important ingredient: there is no complaint from Mr. Woods.

I understand that a Prosecutor can proceed in a criminal matter without the assistance of a victim, but ultimately, if that victim refuses to testify, there is (usually) no case. As a former deputy prosecutor for the State of Indiana, there were instances where I had to dismiss cases where the alleged victim refused to testify. Without the testimony of the key witness, I had no case. While I had some power to pressure the individual who had filed the initial complaint with the police, unless there was some clear evidence that her refusal to testify was being compelled out of fear and pressure from the alleged offender, there was little point to it.

Here, there isn't even a complaint. Woods wants the public and the police and the state to get out of his life regarding this issue. He has that right. Even if he was struck by his wife, he has the right to overlook that incident. Millions of men and women have been struck by their spouse and never considered making a phone call to complain to the police. Even Canada wants to get into the act. Amanda Alvaro, a publicist with a PR firm in Toronto said: "He is not going to get out of this scandal until he has something to say."

Hello? Something to say? It seems to me pretty obvious that he's already had "something to say." Woods has said it is a private matter. A traffic accident that does not involve anyone else, but is in essence, a case where someone, for whatever reason, lost control of the vehicle, is not a big deal. If he was drunk or on drugs, the cops would have known that and busted him. Obviously, he was not. So, why not accept the matter for what he has said it was: a private matter.

We ought all be concerned at our obsession to know all the details of a man's life, especially if he is such a public figure such as Tiger Woods. We should be more concerned when the government leaps into that feeding frenzy and demands our medical records. His constitutional rights are pretty solid here. The police do not, in fact, have the right to know every details about the accident. They know he had an accident. He has treated it as an accident. If his wife tried to make a hole in one with a 9 iron, and he has chosen to not reveal her score, so be it. If, after every auto accident, the government had the right to invade our privacy and look at our medical records, we would soon be without any privacy rights. Every citizen ought to be concerned at this intense desire by the police to view this man's medical records.

Next time you run over a garbage can, or you're distracted and hit a tree, realize that the government may be wanting to get into your medical records. They're not going to take your word it was an accident. If there is no obvious reason, such as slurred speech, or hic-cups, or difficulty walking a straight line, the police are going to want answers for why you hit that can or tree. They're not going to accept a declaration from you of "Guess I didn't see it," or "No comment," or "Shucks, I'll pay for the damages. Let's just move on, okay?"

Now, in fairness to the cops, I understand that business may be kind of slow in Tiger's neighborhood, and the chance to be "super cop" on national television is a huge temptation. Plus, looking through the medical records of Tiger Woods beats looking through the pockets of a drug dealer, any day.

[Sure hope I never hit a garbage can again.]

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