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Doctor's tapings, suicide raise broader issues

Unleashing your sociological imagination is a must! In the days of social media, consumers are bombarded by media images and sound bites that become the "reality" of those who relish in having others think for them. The recent announcement by Johns Hopkins Medical System that a former employee was found dead the result of an apparent suicide made its way through the news feeds as top-of-the-hour headlines ("Doctor is found dead amid taping inquiry," Feb. 19).

At face value, it appears that Dr. Nikita A. Levy, an obstetrician and gynecologist, took unauthorized photos and videos of his patients. The news did not specify if that was before, during or after his exams, but news outlets spun their reports to cause the viewer to think the worst. Sociologist C. Wright Mills coined the term "sociological imagination" as an attempt to help society understand the importance of the awareness of an individual and the wider society in daily life. Rather than rely on common sense notions, viewers should ponder the many variables that may have caused the physician to resort to such measures. Could the physician have been protecting himself against malpractice law suits and by maintaining a record of interactions with his patients he would be able to defend himself against false accusations? Were his clientele and office local both ripe with unsavory individuals who earned their pecuniary rewards suing physicians?

If these were his motives and not personal pleasure or financial gain, issues arise for various fields in the presence of social media. What are the ethical standards concerning the emergence and popularity of social media? Are the current standards applicable to the societal shifts taking place? The doctor's clients could have secretly videotaped or recorded him and if so, what recourse would he have had? Perhaps his recourse would have been the recordings he secretly made and secured. The doctor admitted to videotaping his clients but then allegedly took his own life, leaving us to speculate on his motives. How sad he didn't have the personal fortitude to illuminate for us and to fight for his legacy. A Cornell-graduated, 54-year-old black physician may have fallen victim to his own success. Far removed from the stereotypical black man, yet feared for his resolve, demeanor, and stature, Dr. Levy may have fought so many wars trying to assimilate into a culture that the reality that his efforts were in vain were too much to bear. How many more Dr. Levy's are at this crossroad and how do we as a society help them to not be victims of intellect and success?

Yesterday, prior to learning of the doctor's death, I posted a picture of "The Thinker" with the saying, "I think therefore I am dangerous." Today those words resonate as I ponder the probability of their manifestations in this case.

Jacqueline Rhoden-Trader, Baltimore

The writer is an assistant professor of criminology at Coppin State University.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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