Educated guess or breach of patient confidentiality?

The story wasn't over after it was published in Shin Min Daily. [My blog discussed in Shin Min Daily]

The wife of the deceased man was surprised to receive uninvited guests at her husband's funeral wake: reporters from 2 separate local newspapers who requested to interview her. My friend who attended the wake asked the reporters why they were there and how they knew about the wake. The reporters replied that they heard about the wake from the obituary and wanted to write a story about leukaemia.

The widow agreed to be interviewed. One of the reporters requested to take a picture of her husband lying in the casket, claiming that the picture in the obituary was not clear. The request was flatly denied.

My friend was not convinced by the reporters. He called me to ask whether I had sent reporters there. Of course, I did not because:
(1) I respect people's privacy - I would at least ask first the person before giving out any information
(2) I was not aware of the location of the wake

Although we think it's good for the public to have greater awareness about leukaemia, we can't help but wonder: what led the reporters there?

I went to the library to check the obituary. It stated the man's name, his wife's name and his 2 children's names, the location of the wake and a contact number. There was no indication of how he dead (apart from the standard "peacefully").

I have never mentioned my friend's name, the man's name, his wife's name in my blog or verbally to any reporter or friend. I only stated which hospital he was warded in, which day he passed away [Nothing in life is certain but death], and that he was married and has 2 children [Blood donation in Singapore: Who gets the blood?]. Could the reporters have made an educated guess as to which man I was referring to by looking in the obituary? If so, why didn't they call the contact number stated in the obituary before popping by? It seems to me that they were sure they had gotten the right person. Did they obtain the information from the hospital? Or is there some other way of obtaining such information that I am unaware of?

Related posts:
[Blood donation in Singapore: Altruism only gets us so far]


David said...


It is possible the reporters had inside contacts at the hospital or they simply called to find out what wakes were scheduled and for whom.

Over here Funeral and wakes are posted on the websites of the facilities that conduct funerals and wakes. There is little privacy here regarding locations and time of such events.

Reporters often have numerous resources and likely used one or more source, or as mentioned they made calls.


We are no more responsible for the evil thoughts that pass
through our minds than a scarecrow for the birds which fly over the seedplot he has to guard. The sole responsibility in each case is to prevent them from settling.

-- John Churtom Collins

Yu-Kym said...

The location of the wake was stated in the obituary but how did the reporters know that he suffered from leukaemia? If they had been tipped off by a friend or a member of the public, I'm sure they would have said so instead of claiming to have obtained the information from the obituary.

Anonymous said...

they had interviewed someone from NUH before + they must had felt guilty for turning your friend away (so they knew who you were referring to) + there could only be that few or one case of leukaemia in that recent weeks + the obituary probably didn't have many people who fit the particular age, family size and description

so it is probably quite easy to find out who your friend was and then search for the address of the wake. Reporters tend to have their own sources and prefer not to reveal too much to the wife on that day so as not to upset her by saying they did a thorough check in the backend.

Not sure if I make any sense because it's just my wild guess...

Maybe the simplest guess would be that the reporters went from one wake to another asking the other family members who are not in the wife's sight about whether the guy died of leukaemia, until they found the right one.