Facebook postings lead to Internal Affairs investigation

Christopher Cornstalk was a member of the Odawa Nation, Turtle Clan. He also struggled with multiple health issues and was well-known to the Chicago healthcare community before his death in 2006. It’s what happened after his death, though, that’s generated headlines. In 2009, Native activists stumbled on a Facebook page, “Do you know this alcoholic Indian?”, featuring Mr. Cornstalk. The page had over 600 followers, including nurses and emergency responders who cared for Mr. Cornstalk during his lifetime.

While the Facebook page has since been deleted, Natives Against Racism preserved screenshots of the original page and posted them online. One section features a full-face photo for Mr. Cornstalk wearing a Santa-style hat. A comment reads, “can you hear him??…or should I say SMELL him!!”

Mr. Cornstalk’s family and activist groups have filed complaints with the mayor’s office, the Chicago Media Department and the Internal Affairs Division. A Chicago Internal Affairs Investigation is still in process. A new Facebook group, Justice and Dignity for Christopher Cornstalk, is drawing attention to his plight.

Do you think nurses and other healthcare providers should receive specific training in social media privacy? What sanctions, if any, should be imposed on nurses who post patient information online?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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2 Responses to Facebook postings lead to Internal Affairs investigation

  1. Shel b

    I am appalled to read this article, I am a R.N. That works in an er and I am very familiar with the mr. Cornstalks. I am sure every community has the patient who is frequently in the er, or hospital being picked up by ems and some of the illness may be due to life choices. These patients have a disease and need to be treated with respect and empathy each and every time he is under their care. The remark about him smelling bad me so angry, if his disease was cancer and not alcoholism would that remark have been made? Cancer smells terrible! How many people went to this fb site and no one thought it was wrong? Who took the pix of him in the hospital bed ? There is so much bad here I hope his family gets their day to speak out!

  2. blairbushproject

    The violation is the largest and worst case ever under HIPAA and has been ignored. But we found that there is something wrong with the weebly website. We contacted weebly who said nothing is wrong on their end. So for some reason it shows up as 404. Thank you for your article and we hope that more articles are considered based on the reaction by the City of Chicago who said the staff were not from Chicago. And further to Facebook for punishing the reporting individuals and to surrender the group posts as evidence to the family with associated IPs and account participation.