Voluptas ex malo


Voluptas ex malo (Latin): deriving pleasure from evil/bad.

A man with newly diagnosed HIV infection was seen at the ED for minor complications from his medications. He was received by a nurse at the ED who attended to his complaints and he was subsequently seen by a doctor who decided to admit him for observation. After a few days he was discharged well. After a week or two, he noticed his office mates behaving strangely towards him. A close colleague who often makes him a drink in the morning has ceased to do so. Others made excuses when invited out for a meal.

Before long, he heard whispers circulating in the office – that he has been afflicted with the dreaded disease and that it is highly contagious. Even eating and drinking together might spread the disease! His work life became a living hell. He lost concentration and found it hard to work. He didn’t know who he could complain to and so he returned to his treating doctor and complained to him.

The source of the trumour (a true rumour), which the distressed man strongly believed, was the ED nurse who first attended to him. It turned out that she is the wife of one his office mates!

Perhaps it was from an innocent bedtime story shared between spouses or perhaps it was shared out of malice or simply because it was such a ‘juicy piece of gossip’, but whatever it was, a man’s career is in jeopardy because a healthcare professional has breached an expected code of conduct.

The story isn’t an isolated case of course, there’s the blabbermouth at the mortuary who let slip the diagnosis of a deceased man from HIV to the entire kampong resulting in the entire family of the deceased to be ostracised. There’s the hush-hush juicy round going from one professional to another that so-and-so has HIV or so-and-so is gay. There’s the case of specialist-in-training who shouted loudly at a patient in the ward these words: “You have HIV and you deserve to die!” (We didn’t gazette him). There’s the case of an entire family moving interstate to escape the harsh backlash from people whom they used to be on friendly terms with because a member of the family has HIV and they some how knew…because some one blab!

The stories could fill a book or two.

We can do our part – ask before you speak: is what I am about to say, even if it’s true, going to cause hardship to another fellow human being? If the answer is yes, then zip the mouth.

2 thoughts on “Voluptas ex malo

  1. Maintaining patient’s confidentiality should be part of a health care worker’s professionalism! Here where I am working, it could cost us our jobs!


  2. I sometimes feel the only reason why people love to spread rumours (true or not) is that they : 1. Have nothing exciting happening in their own lives and want some drama 2. Are running away from cleaning their own backyard by putting attention on someone else one (mostly the case). And I guess all the education about spread of HIV has a long way to go huh?


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