The Paradoxes of Privacy
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Year Published: 1990
Pages: 197pp Price: $22.95 ISBN: ISBN 0-201-06745-5
Resource Type: Book
Cx Number: CX4513
Abstract: The need for privacy, "to be protected from invasion, control, intrusion, exposure", seems to be inherent in "our communal psyche", says Alida Brill. Privacy, she says, is the right "most valued by civilized people". Privacy is not guaranteed, as Brill illustrates in Nobody's Business, her essay on the privacy rights of women, gays, the chronically ill and the elderly.
Paradoxically, says Brill, we sometimes choose to submit the most private areas of our lives to public scrutiny seeking "in the most public arenas the right to choose how we live the most private part of our lives."
The privacy of women seeking abortion is frequently invaded says Brill, citing, among other reasons, legal action by husbands and boyfriends and obstruction by zealous right-to-life forces attempting to prevent abortion. She looks at less obvious denial of privacy, like restrictions in the U.S. on the public funding of abortion. "Privacy is essentially denied to those who cannot buy it," she says.
Calling AIDS "privacy's new prism", Brill points out how the disease has invaded gay privacy. Gay activism, however, illustrates what she calls "a paradox of privacy". Recalling attempts by gay activists in the U. S. to have the right to engage in private homosexual acts guaranteed to them, Brill says the activists were "voluntarily revealing the identity of their sexual souls in the hopes that there would come to a day when their private acts would be protected nationally". "Even more paradoxical", writes Brill, is the practice of "outing" -- gays revealing the sexual nature of `closet' gays, especially those in the public eye.
Brill chronicles many cases where the right to die is withheld from the ill and elderly, givomg examples of medical heroics and lawsuits filed by strangers on another's behalf, (even if the life saved is in a <~>vegetative state). Death used to have a more predictable pattern, Brill says, and it was less denied. The right to die privately, at home, without medical technology is a right granted to very few. Brill believes we must, "come to an understanding about the need for our own individual involvement in our deaths".
Nobody's Business makes the strongest possible case for the nobility of privacy and sets out ways for all of us to protect and promote it.