Blogging is a great way to get things into an open forum for discussion. But I still have nagging doubts about doctors who post blogs or replies about healthcare issues without giving their names.
As a new blogger, I often look at those replies to my postings that are anonymous and think, “Who are you? Why do you think the way you do? Why will you not put a name and face to your thoughts?” My personal belief is that the anonymous person may lack conviction, confidence or courage. Would they be as brazen or critical if I could research their credentials?
Anonymity is an ethical issue in blogging, with compelling arguments for and against. I understand that someone who is ill does not want to divulge his identity. That level of confidentiality I can understand – the same applies to case histories in medical publications.
I can also understand that a doctor who blogs in a ‘whistleblower’ role, or who is vulnerable to recrimination or litigation, would want to preserve his anonymity. Blogging leaves an indelible record that when tied to a name may come back to haunt that person if the post is not circumspect.
But this is my whole point. Why bother writing something trivial or meaningless anyway? If you would not like to be associated with what you write, what makes you think it is worth reading by someone else? Accountability is a safeguard against irresponsibility, particularly in online media.
I blog as an extension of who I am as a doctor, putting a carefully considered face to the experience of caring for the sick, as a means of drawing attention to issues that do not get into medical journals. As do most other doctors who host their own blogs. These are golden opportunities, and should not be wasted or treated lightly.
I would not accept a referral from an anonymous doctor, or give advice to one. In the same way, I may read anonymous replies to my postings, but they carry much lower weight.
As doctors, our names and reputations are always on the line. So much of the potential in medical blogging is in making public our determination to maintain medical accuracy on the web, and expose fraudulent information. When we blog openly without fear or shame, we further those dreams and strengthen the cause of all who go before and stand alongside us.
Martin Young is founder and CEO of ConsentCare.
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