Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Anorexic teens ordered to turn Myspace writings over to the court

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There are many levels of weirdness to this New Jersey court case involving Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, a group of anorexic teenagers, and Myspace.

Here are the basics: In New Jersey, health insurance companies are required to cover mental illness only if it is biologically based. Horizon declined to pay for the treatment of three teenagers with eating disorders, and their families sued (in federal court). The families say the eating disorders are biologically based; Horizon says anorexia and bulimia are emotional disorders. The cases, filed separately, were consolidated for discovery.

Because the court has barred Horizon from taking depositions from the teens, Horizon requested access to the their diaries, emails, and any writing posted on Myspace or Facebook. The judge limited the scope of discovery to writings that were made public and “shared with others,” which means the emails and social networking pages are still up for grabs.

This presents the first level of weirdness. Can emails and postings on an (at least theoretically) closed-access social networking sites be classified as public, and up for grabs in discovery of this sort? Phillip Malone, director of the cyber law clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Cener for Interent and Technology, told Portfolio that the case law on discovery of materials posted on social networking sites is still just developing.

“Malone … says the generation that has grown up online have different privacy expectations, and believe they can put material on the Internet with the expectation that only a limited group will see it. “We should recognize that there is a continuum,” Malone says. A teenager on Facebook sharing with six friends “is a very small and limited group and courts should treat that differently than a blog available to the whole world.”

The bigger – and weirder – question, I think, is what exactly does Horizon hope to learn from these teens’ Myspace blogs? Philip Sellinger, Horizon’s lawyer, said these posts “go to the heart of” whether the girls’ eating disorders were biologically or emotionally based.

Really? A whole slew of mental health professionals can’t agree on this issue (the National Institute for Mental Health says eating disorders are biologically based, but others disagree), but by golly, teenage Myspace ramblings should get to the heart of it! Why, who even needs a psychiatry degree? I can’t wait to start diagnosing all my friends based on their facebook profiles. This is psychiatry 2.0, baby!

Says Rachel at Women’s Health News: “I wonder how BCBS plans to separate normal teenage angst from writings demonstrating a direct cause of their eating disorders? Somehow I doubt that’s even possible, because, let’s be frank – if someone dug up all of your teenage missives, would it seem like you were a mature, mentally stable person? Probably not.”

Newsweek take
Junkfood Science on the biology of starvation

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Written by Elizabeth

February 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm

One Response

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  1. call the Catastrophic Fund

    aswedfrgth

    November 19, 2008 at 10:07 pm


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