What you have not published, you can destroy. The word once sent forth can never be recalled. -– Horace


Horace had no "memory hole." What the Roman satirist published stayed published and became a part of history, affecting both his reputation and his relationships.

In George Orwell's novel "1984," there is no history in any true sense because the government of Big Brother continually rewrites it to suit is own purposes -- throwing inconvenient facts and documents down the memory hole.

Who among us wouldn't like access to a personal memory hole to permanently eliminate records of some embarrassing moments?

And if we could hide the evidence of evils we've done and then not be held accountable for it, wouldn't the expurgation of our records tempt us to do more evil?

The West Virginia Supreme Court has blithely dismissed this ethical concern, setting up a memory hole for plaintiff Carla Blank and insisting that the medical records she supplied to the defendant in a lawsuit over a head-on collision be returned or destroyed.

Justices Menis Ketchum and Brent Benjamin dissented, warning that the decision would lead to more lawsuits and higher insurance costs.

"Even if we presume there is some statutory or regulatory authority creating a right to medical record confidentiality, I believe a plaintiff waives his right by filing a lawsuit in a public forum and delivering the records to opposing parties," Ketchum wrote. "Once confidential information is made public, it cannot be hidden or concealed again."

Ketchum argued that "the insurance industry should be allowed to hold down its costs by maintaining data banks of medical records to identify malingerers and cheaters and double dippers. Adjusters settling personal injury claims prior to a lawsuit should have access to the claimant's complete prior medical history," he affirmed.

We concur with Justice Ketchum. Our courts are a public forum, and the public deserves a permanent record of what transpires in those courts.

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