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June 12, 2015


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You may be aware of this but I would also consider her survey results. Some armchair analysis from a sociology forum:


and more here

Enrique Luis-Garza

Professor Lubet --

Don't stop, please. You've got the thread in your hand, and you need to pull it through to the end.

But please do answer one question: What is the end? What's the right result here, do you think? A recalled book? A rescinded job offer? Something else?

Jeff Harrison

Keep it coming but I am sure you are aware of the line you are crossing. You are suggesting that facts matter when they lead to incorrect inferences. Usually, in legal "research" it is wise not to even take on a project if there is any possibility that what is found will be unpopular.


This anonymous critique summarizes the many errors and problems:


Contrary to what you've asserted above, it's my understanding that under HIPPA (from the US DHHS website), hospitals CAN release patient information to the police. Whatever problems may exist in Goffman's book, it's clear that such practices by police (and hospitals) ARE legally allowed.

From the US Department of Health & Human Services

When does the Privacy Rule allow covered entities to disclose protected health information to law enforcement officials?
To respond to a request for PHI for purposes of identifying or locating a suspect, fugitive, material witness or missing person; but the covered entity must limit disclosures of PHI to name and address, date and place of birth, social security number, ABO blood type and rh factor, type of injury, date and time of treatment, date and time of death, and a description of distinguishing physical characteristics. Other information related to the individual’s DNA, dental records, body fluid or tissue typing, samples, or analysis cannot be disclosed under this provision, but may be disclosed in response to a court order, warrant, or written administrative request (45 CFR 164.512(f)(2)).


From the American Medical Association's website:

May a physician or hospital release information to the police to assist with an investigation?
Yes. The Privacy Rules explicitly allow a physician to disclose protected health information for law enforcement purposes, although the physician must comply with certain requirements. For example, the type of information that may be disclosed may be limited and the physician may need to verify the identity and authority of the officer making the request. To learn more about the requirements for disclosing protected health information to the police, check the Department of Health and Human Services' Frequently Asked Questions at: Link.

Concerned academic

Goffman did not say much to the NYT or The Chronicle, but she did give a rather extensive interview to WHYY in Philadelphia. A couple of comments worth noting:

"Three or four typos in the book of the 60 pages that the anonymous person wrote were genuine errors in the putting together of the manuscript, and they will be corrected in the next version, and they were very minor. I stand by the book."

"So if somebody wanted to fact-check the field work, they could talk to many, many professors at Penn who I talked to about the field work as I was doing it, professors at Princeton, people I presented the work to at conferences, including people who have met some of the people in the book and interviewed them, including my adviser."

"I think the way to fact-check something like this is partly to see, well, does a book like this happen only in Philadelphia? Well, no, if you read the Justice Department report on Ferguson, Missouri, if you read the reports that are coming out of Baltimore, the kinds of policing and court practices in Philadelphia are extremely similar to those reports."

Full interview is here:

Steve L.

Yutaka: HIPAA indeed allows hospitals to disclose certain sorts of patient information for the purpose of law enforcement, but it does not allow bored cops carte blanche access to "patient lists" while they are "waiting around," which is what Goffman claimed.

Concerned academic

Also, relating to Goffman's claim that she destroyed her notes in order to shield her subjects from prosecution: she reports that many of them, including Chuck, died during her field work. Why be concerned with protecting dead people from criminal prosecution?


So she says the way to fact-check her is by asking whether there are police problems in Ferguson? That is -- to put it bluntly -- an insanely lame attempt to defend herself.

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