Thursday, February 15, 2007

Court of public opinion

I was struck by a story recently featured on Kevin, MD (interesting comments on this post as well). A patient in California goes to a plastic surgeon, has a procedure, and is not satisfied with the results. So, what does she do? She tells everybody about it. But, here's the twist, she's using the internet, with an interesting website name, to express her opinion.

This story has been going through my head, especially with my recent experience with "the haters." And, I apologize to those of you out there who are sick and tired of me talking about this. But, there is going to be a time, sooner than I think, that a patient around here is going to find out that the wildly popular (LOL) Dr. A is their physician.

According to this news story, patients are well within their 1st Amendment rights to express whatever they want about poor medical care. But, physicians are not able to respond because of the federal privacy rules. That's kind of scary if you ask me.

Now, trying a case in the court of public opinion is not a new thing. I realize people have been doing this forever. But, now, this takes on an interesting twist when the internet is involved. Potentially having my name and reputation smeared internationally is not something that I thought of when I applied to medical school.

Finally, on a lighter note, and from the "Dr. A is a hypocrite file" (*cough*), here is a video blog (not by me), talking about her adventures with her favorite cellular phone company (at least she's not talking about me). Enjoy!


The Beach Bum said...

I am a supporter of the First Amendment. But opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one. I take what I read on the Blogs and/or the Internet as I take a grain of salt.
Some postings that I have read are just ludicrous, others are totally absurd. But, seemingly I have nothing better to do than read Blogs.
I read a lot of them, but post a comment to very few.
Dr. A, you are a great Blogger!
The Beach Bum

Chrysalis Angel said...

It definitely isn't fair that someone can smear another, yet the other party is unable to defend themselves. It seems the Dr. could go for a defamation of character suit. Ugh, such a world we live in.

Ajitbhai said...

Being a physician here in India ,reading this post was really scary.We have not reached this stage of patients going to the 'public court ' over the net. Litigations do occur in the consumer courts but I never had thought from this angle of getting your name smeared over the world.Bloggers should be mature enough to see through what is not genuine as going over the net to vent anger and frustration may not carry weight and may not be true in such instances.

R2K said...

: )

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

oh i can sooo sympathize with her! if you read my early blog it was all about my alltel troubles in podunk. you see in podunk alltel is the only choice i have. they are awful. really awful. i hate them. all of them. the runaround she got? nothing compared to mine. go read, you'll see. my earliest posts...

smiles, bee

Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

I was once cheated by a dishonest car salesman. When I realized it, I complained loud and long to the car dealer manager, hollering insults, etc., but got nowhere with the guy. Finally I threw in a statement to the effect that I would "tell everybody I knew about this cheatin' car dealer by way of the internet"---and the guy paled...

sir said...

In Europe it would never ever go to this extreme. There is something to be said about personal responsibility and the 'old way' of doing things.
Also there is something to be said about European education where not all people who want to study medicine get through. I've tried both US and European educational systems and usa was easy, like a breeze, where as Europe was insanly intense.

I think this is an issue that taps onto so many different levels.

Personal responsibility here in the US appears to be lost, and indeed freedom of speech is so important.

Yet, have you guys noticed that freedom of speach is an illusion. 'Big Brother' is watching!

And you think you can say what ever you's all being recorded.
Physicians too should have the same rights, freedom of speach!

Anonymous said...

The surgeon did as she asked, that is not ground for malpractice.

I also suspect the surgeon will appeal the defamation decision. At a point free speech is defamation when there is intent to harm. She is certainly intending to harm the surgeon.


jmb said...

So is something on the internet like that considered libel, I wonder? Have to ask Addicted to Medblogs about that.
Interesting blog, only theoretical, I hope, for you Dr A.

Natalie said...

I am very scared that a MD would have no legal way to defend themselves. I mean their work is being attacked. Something about that should change. wouldn't the Dr. be using their first amendment rights to defend themselves?

SeaSpray said...

Hi Dr. A - I am new to your sight and I just want to say that I am sorry that you have had to endure the negative things that have occurred since your video.

I accidentally discovered the med blogs back in October and became immediately hooked! I only set up a blog so that I could comment on other blogs, not realizing that I could comment anonymously. But then....something....happened. At the point that I was filling out my ridiculously long profile (I DO need to chop that) I became HOOKED. I have always been one to write letters and in journals, etc. and so this was really fun.

I am still learning the ropes and have questioned what my blogging boundaries should be. I have told people I know that I do it and even the ones that don't know i am blogging could probably put it all together if they stumbled on it. I don't care though, because I am not saying nor will I EVER say anything malicious or embarrassing regarding anyone else. Maybe about politics or some other newsworthy article - sure, but never about anyone that crosses my path in my personal life - I am NOT that person.

I do find it alarming that people who recognize a blogger could release personal info about the blogger on the www. THAT could be dangerous!

When you think about it, it really is frightening to think of how much privacy is lost on a daily basis. Just watch an episode of 24 to have a good visual on the capabilities in technology to gather information.

When such capabilities are in good hands not too bad, but if gets into the wrong ones the consequences are far reaching. Even with the fairly recent HIPPA regulations, I still wonder just how private everything really is in this age of modern technology. How many times is private patient info erroneously faxed to a WRONG number?

This is definitely a new hobby and yes - I really do find this addicting. :) I do think I need to pace myself more and get back to reading and scrabble, etc. Just last night I went to one of my book shelves and immediately pulled out 4 books that I want to read and I have so many more than that.

I have been blessed with the joy of laughter, support during trials, education in med issues and so much more.

Having said that - I can envision the need for a 12 step program for bloggers. :)

You have an interesting blog and I am going to blogroll you and I hope that is alright.

Keep blogging as long as you enjoy it. Eventually, it always works out that the bad people fall away for one reason or another. :)

kïrstin said...

i think its crazy that someone would go to a plastic surgeon after a breakup. especially on her face! thats putting the surgeon in a pretty unfair position if you ask me.

i would never expect to get the results from someone else that i really wanted. its not possible. i have enough trouble getting the haircut i see in my mind. every one sees a little differently, and even if the surgeon is exceptionally good, its still going to be his perception of what she wants. it may not match her inner picture like she sees it.

the surgeon, however, perhaps shouldnt take on a patient who has just experienced an emotional upheaval.

ya think?

D.P. said...

"So is something on the internet like that considered libel, I wonder?"

"I am very scared that a MD would have no legal way to defend themselves."

Because of HIPAA, the doctor cannot create a website responding to the patient's allegations, but doctors do have legal recourse. This doctor actually sued the patient and lost because he couldn't prove that she made false allegations. If someone is telling the truth, it isn't considered libel.

While this patient's website does describe the details of what happened to her, including the doctors name and before and after photos, most of it is advice to people considering cosmetic surgery. She included questions to ask and other ways to find the right surgeon.

There are defamatory websites out there, and I know I wouldn't want a website out there bashing me. I'm not personally convinced that this is one of them, however. Then again, I don't really know all of the details.

It's me, T.J. said...

Interesting story.

Even more interesting is that my term paper touches on this very subject.

In fact, I'm needing some help on my term paper and I was hoping to ask a favor of you.

I have placed some polls on my blog and I was wanting to get some more responses on them.

They are perfectly anonymous and I can't tell who voted for what.

Your regular readers are welcome to vote as well.

Thanks, and I really, really appreciate the help.

notfearingchange said...

yeah it is hard to speak about what you want when you have to be careful about your real world...

but even more so with you since there's the whole patient doctor confidentiality

Stephanie said...

There is a website that has been getting some attention recently that allows people to rate their doctors. You choose to give them a good, average or poor smiley face based on three areas of "care" (punctuality, helpfulness and knowledge).

The areas of "care" noted above have very little bearing on the actual quality of treatment you receive.

Though I agree with people having their opinions based on their personal experiences, I do not think that the internet is a fair forum by which to host this type of free speech.

These types of sites may open the doors to the unjustifiable slandering of a perfectly skillful doctor simply because someone decided that they personally did not like this doctor.

The other thing that is unfair is that the doctor will likely have no idea that his name is being smeared across all of the internet.

Doctor's must be cognizant of the ethical choices involed in their profession; so should the general public.