Demise of the medical blogosphere?

Some reactions to yesterday’s dark day.

Stranger than you can imagine:
“I have been thinking about medical blogs since Flea deleted his. Fat Doctor has deleted hers too, and unfortunately I don’t think we will see their blogs reappear. I think the risks are too high. I think that all of the medical bloggers are going to disappear or go private in a month or less. I have no doubt that there are lawyers right now, trying to figure out who various medical bloggers are and who their patients are, so they can file suit against the doctors for “privacy violations” and then “settle” instead of going to trial. (aka as “legal extortion” (to non-lawyers)). Settling for $10k, $30k, even $50k, is much cheaper than going to trial for $200k.

Once that becomes common (i.e. happens even once) we will see US medical blogs disappear. It will be a shame when that happens.” (via Dr. RW)

Doctor Anonymous:
“There are some out there who say that it’s only a matter of time until the entire medical blogosphere fades away. “The lawyers are picking you off, one by one,” someone sent me in an e-mail today. In my heart, I think that our community too strong to allow that to happen.”

“From what I can tell, the content of these “major media” pieces is not dissimilar to that on medical blogs””these authors critique the profession, provide commentary about the practice of medicine, and share patient stories. So what is it about writing online in independent blogs that differs from writing in major media? Have hospital administrators frowned upon Jerome Groopman for criticizing the thought processes of physicians? Did the chair of the neurosurgery department chide Sanjay Gupta for the opinions he provides on television? I imagine that the medical centers that employ these published physicians are rather proud that they are affiliated with these writers. However, no-name””nay, anonymous!””physicians who write online are somehow more threatening to institutions.”

Rita Schawb:
“Insightful, well-written medical blogs are falling victim to corporate paranoia and jealous co-workers. At a time when transparency in healthcare is being touted by the industry as a positive and inevitable response to the public’s desire for safer care, it is truly a shame that eloquent voices are being silenced.”

“Patient privacy is a major deal, and rightly. But physicians have a long history of anonymizing patients in journal publications, and perhaps with more relevance, in the physicians long history of non-fiction publication.

There must be a way to extend such to the blogosphere.”

Highlight HEALTH:
“The problem I see is that these two issues are counter to one another. If readers expect doctors to fictionalize patient information for privacy concerns, how then can they expect to trust the medical information in those blogs?”

Val Jones:
“I have never blogged anonymously – and I recognize that anything I post can be read by anyone, anytime, anywhere. This knowledge has resulted in extreme caution in posting information that could even remotely be linked to a real patient. And yes, I have also refrained from blogging about issues and events that I sure would have liked to because of the associated risks.”

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  • Anonymous

    Has even one person filed one claim against a doctor for putting their info out? Can you guys be any more dramatic?

  • For whom the blog rolls

    Isn’t the doom-and-gloom case for med-blog REFORM! is a little overstated?

    Flea is in the midst of litigation, and the removal of the blog serves his own best interests, and perhaps those of his employer and insurer.
    Frankly, I thought he said many imprudent things related to his case. Other of his remarks over time might even have supported the notion that he sometimes is a sloppy listener/communicator, apparently an issue in the case at hand. There is no way to hide what has been said, but he might avoid putting himself at further disadvantage at least for the duration.

    Fat Doctor ended her blog out of an abundance of caution and a desire to remain as anonymous as possible.
    Her employer didn’t even hint that she should remove her blog. Her personal judgment about what she does or doesn’t want revealed about her identity or her opinions related to specific persons or situations is her own. I am sorry to see that blog go, but it is not the death knell of med-blogging, the end times, nor dogs and cats, living together, nor physicians stripped of their first amendment rights.

  • Matthew

    Anon (CJD, I’m guessing? Still hiding?),

    Can any lawyer honestly say that they wouldn’t take every opportunity to hold every word printed on a blog against their in-court victim? Asking for an honest answer is probably too much, but there’s no way a lawyer wouldn’t do that for profit. We all know that.

    Intellectual honesty is a great thing. Strive for it.

  • Elliott

    The lawyers have ruined medical blogging! We must have laws protecting medical bloggers from liability.

    1. No medical blogger should ever be exposed to potential litigation for libel.

    2. No statements on a medical blog should ever be used in court.

    3. All medical bloggers should have their ISP and hosting charges reimbursed (they’re doing a public service and they are oh so well-written).

    I warn you that there is no way that we can keep the best and the brightest blogging without these protections. Medical blogging will become mediocre at best or we will have to import our bloggers from other countries. Until the AMA seriously gets behind these reforms, it’s a waste of money to join.

  • Diora

    Can’t you just put a statement on top “every example I put here is fiction, any similarity to real people is purely coincidental? Everything else is just my opinion and not those of the employer; my opinions are subject to change without notice.. Under no circumstances should anything stated here be interepreted as a medical advice. All other disclaimers anybody can think of apply. My cat sometimes uses my computer, so some of the entries may not have been written by me”

    I am sure some of the lawyers who write here could come up with a better list of disclaimers. Since they are obviously enjoying posting, they can do it for free.

  • Anonymous

    “Can any lawyer honestly say that they wouldn’t take every opportunity to hold every word printed on a blog against their in-court victim? “

    Obviously, anything anyone says about a case is open to being evidence. Why shouldn’t it be?

    That’s why you use anonymous case names.

    “In court victim”? You mean the person who is pissing through a plastic tube becuase you’re not competent? That victim?

  • Ducknet Services

    I felt inclined here to leave a short comment as I have my own blog going as a consultant, but bottom line here is that I too am someone’s patient and I appreciate and read many MD blogs. It is good information for anyone. I have seen nothing but professionalism in any blogs I read posted by MDs. Like anything else it tends to be a fear of the unknown for those who tend to choose “not to be informed” and the sad thing about all of this is that it impairs the ability of those who desire to be informed and care about the health care industry today and take the time to make a difference.

  • Anonymous

    Ducknet, your link list of medical blogs must be very short, if you have NEVER witnessed anything other than professionalism on any medical blog. Good thing you wasn’t reading at this one a few months ago.

  • Matthew


    You’re confusing the comments with the blog. Your lack of rationality and professionalism doesn’t count as a strike against Kevin. Your inability to experience shame or empathy is detracting from your already meager posting skills.

    Intellectual honesty is a great thing. Strive for it.

  • Anonymous

    I am not a doctor, nurse, (nor do I play one on tv, ha-ha.) or even remotely connected with the medical field except as a patient. I enjoy reading more than a few medical blogs, and find them entertaining, interesting, and educational. In reading them I have learned to view my physicians as my partners in the management of my health, and IMHO, feel that I am now a better patient.

    Plus, you’ll NEVER see me at the ER for anything less than a heart attack or major trauma!!! (ha-ha again!)

  • daedalus2u

    I think I have a solution under a terms of use agreement. Essentially, the blog is only offered under a “terms of use” where the user agrees to not use the content to identify the blogger or individuals blogged about, and agrees that if the user does identify the blogger and disclose that to a third party, that the user is responsible for all damages plus 3x punitive damages.

  • Anonymous

    Matthew lecturing others on intellectual honesty is akin to Kevorkian lecturing on the Hippocratic oath. Thanks for the chuckle, Matt.

  • Anonymous

    Or CJD lecturing about legal ethics. Thanks for all the laughs over the years CJD.

  • j7uy5

    One thing I should add to this discussion: anyone who thinks he or she is blogging anonymously should think again. It is extremely difficult to maintain complete anonymity with any on-line activity unless you have a very high degree of technical knowledge and proficiency, and are willing to drive around town leaching on other people’s wireless access points.

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