Facebook photos cause Canadian woman to lose benefits for depression

French Canadian IBM employee Nathalie Blanchard, 29, remained on leave from her position at the company for a year and a half due to a diagnosis of major depression.

Blanchard said doctors advised her, in the course of treatment, to “try to have fun”- so she did, joining friends for trips to the beach and enjoying nights out. But photos of Blanchard’s “fun” posted on Facebook lead to the loss of her benefits in an insurance claims investigation. Blanchard’s profile was friends-locked and she doesn’t know how the insurer, Manulife, accessed her pictures. Blanchard says she notified the company about her trip and her lawyer Tom Lavin calls Manulife’s investigation “inappropriate.”

While the reach of Manulife’s investigation was certainly uncomfortably far and arguably invasive, the scarier part seems to be the idea that something like “major depression” could be diagnosed from a picture or that the validity of a medical diagnosis can be debated due to a picture of a woman on a beach. Blanchard’s lawyer agrees, telling press:

“I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool,” he said, adding that he has requested another psychiatric evaluation for Blanchard.

“It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying …a load of bricks,” Lavin said. “My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook, in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape.”

Manulife refused to comment on Blanchard’s case except to say that they “would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook.”

[CBC.ca via AppScout]