With the issue of data security and information privacy very much in the news here in the UK with the ongoing public airing of a decade of dirty, dirty News International laundry, it’s almost too convenient that another case of information intrusion is currently being investigated over in America – and though it may be a lot less high-profile, there’s a neat little pseudoscience element too it.
Lori Neill is a former occupational nurse in Colorado Springs, who recently resigned from her job. She is also, she believes, psychic. And she believes those two facts are related, and I’m inclined to agree, though doubtlessly for very different reasons.
Lori’s story is that her psychic abilities made her supervisors uncomfortable, and that on the occasion she had told her supervisor he might be suffering from a life-threatening illness, and that he should seek medical help, he was so angered that he made up allegations about her, to force her out of work.
Officials at the hospital and city, however, tell a different story. They have accused Lori of accessing the medical records of around 2,500 patients. Given that Lori worked not for the hospital but for the city, they argue she had no medical need to look at those records. Especially given that most of the accessing happened outside of work hours. Their implication is that Lori is not actually psychic, or able to spiritually intuit the illnesses of people by tuning into the other side (where diagnosticians are ten a penny, I’d presume). They claim instead that the reason she was able to accurately tell people what ailments had befallen them, was that she’d read their medical records.
Of course, Lori denies this entirely, stating that she did not check medical records in order to fake psychic ability. Not at all. The reason she accessed the encrypted and protected database was to check the phone number of a friend of hers, whose number she’d misplaced, which she claims is routine practice. Oh, and to check her supervisor’s record, so as to see if he’d sought the help she’d recommended for the life-threatening condition she definitely knew about before she checked a record of any life-threatening conditions he might have. Presumable the other 2498 records she viewed were in error. Maybe her cat sat on her keyboard at an inopportune time.
So which is it – a paranoid and creeped-out hospital supervisor pressurising a worker caught innocently checking a phone number in 2500 private medical records she had no right to view, or a phony psychic caught in the act of hot reading for having the balls to hot-read her boss’s records? Without further evidence, or the ability to speak to Lori, it’s impossible to tell. But Neill smells a rat. Quoting the Colorado Gazette:
Niell, who said she has had three near-death experiences, said she was often able to get a psychic reading from people she was around. Once, she said, she was recognized by the city after correctly warning a patient he was close to a heart attack and advised him to seek immediate treatment.
“The city gave me a plaque for life-saving intervention,” she said. “They liked it when it worked for them but didn’t like it when I made them uncomfortable.”
Personally, it seems a lot more likely to me that the ‘personal reasons’ she’d been accessing 2500 patients’ information, and the fact that she admits she’d been writing a book about her psychic skills – this all would suggest that she’s a hot reading psychic way more than an innocent. Gather enough testimonies and accounts of correct predictions of past illnesses (remembered from having actually read an account of the past illness), and you’re more than on the way to becoming psychic. That’s not to be too harsh on Lori – perhaps she believed in her ability, perhaps from the one time she did correctly diagnose a potential problem, earning her a plaque. I’ve little surprise that an occupational nurse might be able to notice symptoms of a pending heart attack – or even get dumb lucky in predicting one, once. I certainly don’t need to leap to psychic powers to explain it, and nor should anyone else.
The article continues:
She suspects the city made her case public because officials are worried about information she has from a deceased city employee who has been speaking to her from beyond the grave.
“It’s a power play,” she said. “They are showing me how strong they are. I know for a fact that they are pushing me because there is a dead city employee with important information who I have access to.”
She would not elaborate on the name of the dead employee or the type of information she had.
As for the conspiracy angle – if she does have something to go on, why make it public that she has something and not say what it is, at this point? It’s a classic diversionary tactic, muddying waters to hide the fact she got caught with her hand in the database.
One thing this whole affair did make me think, though – if there actually WERE psychics, how would we cope with things like doctor patient confidentiality, information privacy and the like? At a time when listening to people’s voicemails is bringing down major newspapers, it does make me wonder why, if we’re really to believe that people are capable of tuning in to people’s thoughts for real, there aren’t more psychics either a) in jail for invasion of privacy, or b) working for News International.