Doctors are suing to silence patients who share negative opinions of the them online
“Doctors have long accepted that their patients share opinions about the care they have received, knowing that satisfied patients will refer others while those not so happy with their bedside manner might encourage prospective customers to seek treatment elsewhere. But when William Boothe, an ophthalmologist in Texas, saw that one disgruntled former patient was posting his complaints on the Internet, he launched an aggressive response. He sued for libel and other claims, and earlier this year a state judge ordered the material removed from the Web.
The case is one of a growing number of legal battles being waged over Internet postings about medical complaints. More patients are taking their opinions of their local doctors to the Internet, and a wider audience, and that has some medical providers on edge. Several Web sites have sprung up that encourage patients to post anonymous reviews of doctors and dentists, and some frustrated patients have created entire Web sites to criticize specific physicians.
‘The potential problems are huge,’ said Matt Messina, a dentist in Fairview Park, Ohio, and a spokesman for the American Dental Association. ‘My reputation is my stock in trade “¦ and we work years and years to build that reputation. To have that shattered potentially [by an Internet posting] is a concern.’
Patient advocates, meanwhile, say patients have First Amendment rights to describe their experiences with physicians. ‘Blogs and personal Web sites are no different than talking over the back fence,’ said Charles Inlander, president of People’s Medical Society, a patient advocacy group in Allentown, Pa. ‘Those who read it have to take it with whatever grain of salt you would take, just like a neighbor. It’s too bad if doctors are insulted by this.’” (via GruntDoc)