John Hamilton’s lack of sensitivity to the opioid crisis

I agree with critics of Mayor John Hamilton that the city’s online database of opioid overdoses was a terrible idea. While death certificates are public record, dumping all of this information on an easily accessible website – including the addresses, names and ages of people who died of overdoses – is a serious imposition on privacy and shows a real insensitivity to the human cost of having this online.

The obvious question is this: How did this happen? The Hamilton administration said it “accidentally” posted the sensitive information. That means they were sloppy. The information was not properly reviewed before it was dumped onto the city’s website. Had the data been reviewed, it would have been edited and sensitive information would have been redacted. There was no emergency to post this website. This, of course, raises serious questions about how the city handles other sensitive data.

Think about this: someone is driving along and stops in front of John Q. Public’s house, and overdoes and dies. Now JQP’s house is going to be in the database, forever tainting him with that death, even though JQP did not know the person who died at all. The addict just happened to be driving by when he decided to park and get his fix. Was JQP the addict’s dealer? Is JQP also an addict? No, but people will assume things.

What will that do to JQP’s career prospects? Will a prospective employer toss JQP’s resume into the “circular file” without considering it, because someone overdosed on his property? What will that do to his standing in the community and his reputation? What if he owns a business? What will his customers think? If JQP is a leader in civic organizations, how will that impact those organizations’ reputation?

With all of the above, I do not agree with the planned (and then canceled) protest at John Hamilton’s home. The Mayor is wrong here, but harassing someone at home is a breach of civility that should not happen. We should respect public and private spheres. Protesting at the Mayor’s office is fine, but not at his home. Just because such a protest is legal does not make it right.

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