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?

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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