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Alice McKenney on February 28, 2010
Whether or not to disclose your cancer to your employer often depends on the situation. Prognosis, extent of treatment, and accommodations needed are just a few things to consider. However, do things change at all if you're in a high ranking position?
This issue is a current and controversial one for people in the UK. Marjorie "Mo" Mowlam was a member of the British Parliament from 1987 to 2001. In 1997, she was appointed to the position of Secretary of State of Northern Ireland. Right before this appointment she publicly announced that she had a benign brain tumor. Shortly thereafter in 2001, she retired from politics, and then passed away in 2005.
Why is this relevant you might ask? Well, it has only come to light in the past few weeks that Mo's tumor wasn't benign at all - it was malignant and terminal. Only three people knew this truth until now: Mo, her husband, and her doctor. Responses to this news flash have ranged from calling her courageous for continuing in her difficult position, to calling her a liar for not telling her constituents the real story. Also, while her doctor was legally bound not to say anything, he had strongly advised her to tell the administration about her cancer (but she still chose not to).
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a US Supreme Court Justice, did just the opposite. When she was diagnosed with colon cancer 10 years ago, the public knew. When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago, the public knew. And to top it off she worked through all of it.
Mo was quite lucky that her cancer treatments did not interfere with her day-to-day work life, but most people are not so lucky. What would you have done in this situation? Was it her duty to come clean with the truth? Or do you think she went about it the right way?