TV3 reported on their 5.30pm news bulletin that the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
In a particularly poor piece of broadcasting, even by TV3's admittedly low standards, political correspondent Ursula Hannigan boasted that TV3 could have broken this story on Christmas Eve but held off out of respect for Brian Lenihan's family.
Well done St. Ursula. You truly do embody the Spirit of Christmas.
TV3 then highlighted a press release from the Department of Finance highlighting that the Minister's health is a personal matter and that he is spending Christmas with his family and will not comment on the matter until the New Year.
Personally I think it is shameful that TV3 have decided to break this story so quickly, at Christmas time and so obviously against Brian Lenihan and his family's wishes. I accept that the public has a right to a certain amount of information regarding the health of its political leaders but it appears Brian Cowen has just recently been given this terrible diagnosis and in fact the extent and spread of his disease and likely prognosis might well not even be fully known.
As someone who has had to break news like this to many patients and has seen the agony families go through, particularly in the immediate aftermath and when the full prognosis is not yet certain my heart goes out to him and his family that they have the added suffering of watching this speculation on their TV sets over Christmas. I cannot see how anyone would argue that the public interest outweighs Brian Lenihan's right to privacy and patient confidentiality at this moment in time.
Professor John Crowne, an eminent oncologist at St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin with well documented grievances with the current government also appeared on TV3 news this evening as a "cancer expert" and gave a factual and accurate account of the harsh realities and poor prognosis associated with pancreatic malignancy. TV3 were careful not to use Brian Lenihan's name when interviewing Crowne and he made no specific mention of the Minister. This means he has technically not broken any ethical obligations or Medical Council guidelines regarding confidentiality but again, I personally think that being involved in this "outing" of a young man who has very recently been diagnosed with a terrible illness is poor form as far as I'm concerned.
My rant is now over, and my thoughts are with Brian Lenihan and his family.