“Whitemail” – Using Social Media to Achieve Justice

Do the right thing or well tell the truth

By Ken Howard

As the ordained leader of a relatively new and growing congregation on the outskirts of the nation’s capitol, I have seen Facebook used for many things: evangelism, congregational communication and networking, event publicity, even providing a stealthy, back-door reentry into church life for those who have been away long enough that they want to avoid those awkward “where have you been?” questions that would happen if they came back through the front door. But I had yet to see anyone use Facebook to achieve justice for a parishioner.

That is, until something I tried just a few weeks ago. Something I call, “Whitemail.”

Here’s what happened:

One of my older parishioners was rushed to the hospital (part of a major chain of hospitals) and ended up in the ICU as a result of what at first appeared to be a stroke. After several days, it became clear that it was actually the result of a dramatic worsening of his congestive heart disease, and that he was dying.

After the hospital determined that death was inevitable, the hospital, in what appeared to be an attempt to save money and free up an ICU bed, transferred him to intermediate care, but in a regular hospital room. While this action demonstrated a somewhat disturbing attitude on the part of the hospital, they hadn’t crossed any bright red lines…yet.

Soon, however, it became clear that despite the fact that they had classified his level of care need as intermediate, they were only going to provide him with regular care. When my parishioner began to try to remove his feeding tubes and IV lines, and to get out of the bed, the hospital staff told his wife that she would have to hire a service to take care of her husband. Not wanting to see her dying husband suffer a fall or die prematurely, she indeed engaged such a service. By the time her husband eventually died, she had spent over $3,000, of their limited savings, to provide for her husband a service that should have been provided by the hospital.

After her husband’s death and following his memorial service, she told me that she had resigned herself to writing off the expense. She would just work a little hard to conserve the savings she had left.

But I could not let this injustice go unchallenged. I tried the usual and customary ways to seek redress for the surviving spouse. First, I called the patient advocacy department, and then tried to speak with the hospital president, all to no avail.

Then I had an idea…

I looked up the companies Facebook page. On the page, on the upper left, there was a place to rate (and comment on) company services. I gave the hospital a single star and briefly explained why. Then I sent a direct message. In that message, I simply told them that if they wanted me to avoid a more detailed explanation, they would issue an apology to my surviving parishioner and reimburse her for the money she paid out of pocket for services they should have provided. If they did this, I explained, I would remove the rating and explanation. However, if they would not do the right thing, I would expand upon the explanation, and maybe alert our newspaper, the Washington Post.

Within a week, my surviving parishioner received a check for a little over $3,000…and several apologies.

Who knew that Facebook could be used to achieve social justice?

Whitemail… Maybe you should try it, should the need arise.

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3 thoughts on ““Whitemail” – Using Social Media to Achieve Justice

  1. [The] hospital [in question] does not like, or treat with compassion, care, or respect, seniors. Have had several unpleasant experiences there. Thank you for helping out.

    • WHITEMAIL as in the opposite of BLACKMAIL…

      BLACKMAIL threatens to reveal something the victim doesn’t want known, in order to get the victim to do something bad.

      WHITEMAIL promises the perpetrator that unless the the perpetrator gives justice to the victim, the Whitemailer will reveal the injustice committed by the perpetrator.

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