Should we know as much about Steve Jobs’s health as Gabrielle Giffords?

I came across an article from Kathleen Pender on The Chronicle with Bloomberg today, Giffords' detailed updates, Jobs' nondisclosure, comparing Representative Gabriella Giffords and Apple CEO Steve Jobs approaches about how much information to release when there is a health issue. The title of the article and, to some extent, the article's tone suggests that Mr. Jobs should be releasing more information about his health condition because we know so much about Rep. Giffords condition. Any comparison between the two scenarios is facially appealing but functionally bunk.

I came across an article from Kathleen Pender on The Chronicle with Bloomberg today, Giffords’ detailed updates, Jobs’ nondisclosure, comparing Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Apple CEO Steve Jobs approaches about how much information to release when there is a health issue.  The title of the article and, to some extent, the article’s tone suggests that Mr. Jobs should be releasing more information about his health condition because we know so much about Rep. Giffords condition.  Any comparison between the two scenarios is facially appealing but functionally bunk.  Mr. Jobs and Rep. Giffords are public figures who have suffered or are suffering serious health issues.  It is at this point that the comparison crashes:

  1. Different health situations.  The circumstances of the injuries/health issues are drastically different.  Rep. Giffords survived a cold-blooded assassination attempt and know, thankfully, appears to be making a phenominal recovery.  Mr. Jobs appears (although we cannot be certain) to be in a downward spiral of health due to natural illnesses.  Ms. Giffords is rightfully viewed as a hero by most people.  It seems to me that Mr. Jobs’ condition is viewed with more sadness than anything else.
  2. Different purposes.  Mr.  Jobs is responsible for the day to day operation of one of world’s most valuable companies.  Even a slight slip up or loss of momentum could have drastic consequences for Apple’s stock price and the company.   Ms. Giffords is responsible for representing the people of Southern Arizona in the United States Congress.  Her absence does not stop Congress from conducting its business or even have a major impact on the way Congress conducts its business. (Let me be clear here:  I am not saying Rep. Giffords is unimportant, only recognizing her position as 1 of 435 members of the House).
  3. Institution vs. Company.  Rep. Giffords is accountable to the people she represents while Mr. Jobs is primarily to his Board of Directors (indirectly to Apple shareholders).
  4. Downside. There is little downside to Rep. Giffords’s health condition being released, we are rooting for her recovery and the news has been overwhelming positive.  As morbid as it may sound, Apple’s competitor’s benefit from negative information about Mr. Jobs.  Reports on his health which are grave or concerning threaten and weaken Apple (even if only temporarily) giving competitors an edge.  I am not saying Apple’s competitiors are wishing ill will to Mr. Jobs, only recognizing how the system typically works.
  5. Immediate vs. Future Threat.  Ms. Giffords was perilously to death and survived injuries that 98% of people die from.  It is not clear what Mr. Job’s health status is.  While his health issues may be very serious, the grave threat to his life is not apparent from looking at him.

Is the comparison between the way the Giffords and Jobs  situations have been handled valid?

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."

1 comment

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