Doctors should not sue patients for negative online reviews

The case of the neurologist who sued a patient for a negative online review has come to an end.

Predictably, the court ruled against the physician and dismissed the lawsuit.

To recap, the physician was upset by the slew of negative online reviews he received, and claimed that the patient,

defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, among others.

I wrote previously that doctors shouldn’t try and remove online ratings, but instead, ask more of his patients to go online and rate them.   Chances are, they will be positive.

In the latest Pew Internet data, only 16% of internet users of gone online to rate their doctors and hospitals.  Such a low number makes physician review sites only marginally useful, if at all.

Back to the case at hand.

The physician, apparently, still couldn’t over the judge’s decision.  When asked to comment, here’s what he said:

[The patient] is a liar and a bully and a coward … He knowingly made false and malicious statements about me to a total of 19 different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies and websites. He often used false names and attributed his statements to fictitious third parties. I’ll make the observation that every one of those organizations that was required to make an official decision or take an official action either determined that the statement that he made was so ludicrous that it required no response from me at all or decided that his complaint had no merit.

Now, that really is unnecessary.  Perhaps he realized he had nothing more to lose when it came to his online reputation, but this certainly makes the situation immeasurably worse.

No matter what kind of merit he thought the case had, doctors who sue patients for online ratings are going to lose in the more influential court of public opinion.

Better that doctors take some slanderous lumps online, and instead, encourage more of their patients to rate them.  The ensuing positive ratings that most will receive will drown out whatever vitriol is present.

Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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