Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Secret Agent Bobo

The Los Angeles Times editorializes today about the medical privacy of dead zoo animals, a privilege recently asserted by keepers at Washington's National Zoo: "Thank goodness we have real professionals to protect the privacy of dead giraffes who spent their lives on public display, while saving ignorant citizens from potentially confusing medical information." It's there way to scold institutions inclined to hide "behind a curtain of secrecy."

At first I assumed the Zoo's refusal to turn over notes based on the idea of an animal's right to medical privacy was simply a wacky application of standard animal rights ideology. But as one of Declan McCullagh's Politech list subscribers pointed out, there a much more compelling explanation:

"One wonders if the zoo wasn't just having a little bit of fun with the reporter. But since the zoo is as much a research installation as it is a tourist attraction, they might well have refused to turn over the medical records on the grounds that they constitute the private notes of academics engaged in ongoing research. Few self-respecting academicians I know would be willing to turn over their raw notes prior to an opportunity to publish their findings, and many would still be reticent to turn them over in a raw form even after that. The privacy issue might be amusing, but I think it's not the whole story."


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