Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) lives and dies by frontman Steve Jobs. Therefore, it's no surprise to see the stock suffering today, the first market day after Jobs announced that he needs another medical leave. There's another unspecified medical issue on the table, and Steve wants us to respect his privacy. No problem. His medical history is not a matter of public record.

But in Jobs' particular case, perhaps it should be. While the U.S. market was closed yesterday, Apple shares fell 7% in European trading. In a $320 billion market cap, that 7% equals more than $22 billion, making this one of the most expensive medical leaves in history. As of the opening bell today, U.S. investors took the news less harshly, but the stock is still down 4% in early trading, and it may fall further if tonight's earnings call doesn't provide more clarity.

What happens here clearly affects the future of many portfolios, large and small. Isn't it Steve's solemn duty to keep us apprised of what's going on, so that we can make the appropriate investment decisions?

Simmer down, Apple acolytes
I'm only playing devil's advocate here. There are many reasons why we shouldn't stick our noses in Steve's medical files:

  • Celebrity and business status do not override the right to privacy, and medical data is intensely personal stuff. If UnitedHealth Group published my medical history -- or yours -- for all to see, the company would be in a world of trouble. Apple itself is under legal fire because its iOS devices may or may not handle personal data properly. Jobs should know his rights in this matter, and he's perfectly entitled to exercise them.
  • That 4% drop may feel large now, but it's a drop in the bucket next to the $123 billion of market value Apple created over the last 52 weeks. You're looking a gift horse in the mouth. I fully expect to see shareholder lawsuits demanding clarity or else, but they're throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
  • This has happened twice before, and Steve always bounced back with a vengeance. Soon after his cancer drama, Apple debuted the iPhone. His liver transplant led up to the iPad launch. Maybe Jobs uses these forced vacations to polish his next project to a high gloss.
  • During those other medical intermezzos, COO Tim Cook filled Steve's enormous shoes admirably. There's no reason why he won't do so again.

In short, Apple will be just fine. That doesn't necessarily make it a great investment -- the size of today's damage underscores how quickly the stock's fortunes can change, and how much blue-sky opportunity has already been priced in.

Also, Apple may be universally loved by analysts, but our CAPS community is not so sure. It's just a middling three-star stock with a 92% approval rating. You could take part in the iPhone/iPod/iPad success story by investing in Gorilla Glass maker Corning (NYSE: GLW) or audio-chip designer Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS), both of which sport higher "outperform" ratios and star ratings than Apple does. CAPS takes valuation into account.

So give Steve his privacy, and let me wish him a full and speedy recovery from whatever ails him. If the lack of transparency really concerns you, there are other ways to benefit from Apple's triumphs.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. UnitedHealth Group is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple and UnitedHealth Group are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on UnitedHealth Group. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Cirrus Logic, and UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.