In the latest chapter in the increasingly ghoulish attempt to give us every detail about the last moments in Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, a member of Hoffman's Narcotics Anonymous group broke the rules of the organization to tell The New York Times how he or she thought Hoffman looked. One of the major tenets of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization NA is molded after, is confidentiality among its members.
Privacy and confidentiality are explicit in the organization's name — and are part of the reason people like Hoffman go to meetings and seek help. Privacy and confidentiality are also used to protect the organization against bad press, because a death like Hoffman's could be seen as a failure of the organization.
Unfortunately, someone decided to break those rules to tell The New York Times their take on how they thought he looked. "He raised his hand and he said his name and he said he had 28 days or 30 days sober," the person said. "He looked great, he looked totally, totally normal."
That's not exactly the most groundbreaking (or harmful) of observations, but that person's unprofessional diagnosis of Hoffman's appearance is what we've been treated to in the days following his death. Shortly after the actor died, witnesses have come forward to give personal assessments of how Hoffman looked ("out of it", "pasty", "disheveled") in an attempt to piece together what's become an ungraceful portrait of the actor in his last moments. A couple of news outlets found a picture snapped of Hoffman at Sundance, and more or less dared us to spot the expiration date on the man.
And all of this macabre rubber-necking makes you question about how helpful any of this "stuff" is.
The reason Hoffman's observer is only referred to as "a person" and not their full name is because The New York Times decided to give anonymity taken from Hoffman to Hoffman's fellow group member "because of the group’s rules."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.