BULLS-EYE BLOG: “Online Criticisms of Physicians . . . Lawsuits Are Not The Answer”

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JUNE 12, 2011

“Online Criticisms of Physicians . . . Lawsuits Are Not The Answer”

The Nicodemo & Wilson Bulls-Eye Blog

It’s a brave new Internet world. There are scads of online ratings services that now allow you to rate and discuss your interactions with professionals, including doctors. One Minnesota doctor, who did not appreciate a scathing summary of his interaction with a patient, took the drastic step of suing the reviewer (the patient’s son) for defamation.

A Minnesota judge who heard the case tossed it out, however, ruling that the reviewer’s comments were opinions that were protected by the constitutional right of free speech: In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences. Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this kind any more or less defamatory.

First Amendment free speech considerations aside, as a practical matter, all this lawsuit did was bring more attention and negative publicity to the online review, and now this physician may be seen as someone who is not opposed to suing his own patients. The old adage “if you’re in a hole, stop digging it deeper” applies here to playing the lawsuit card.

Because of the advent of online rating services and reviews, a cottage industry of “web defamation prevention” companies have sprung up. These companies offer “online management” strategies and “agreements” that patients sign promising not to post any review or comment about the physician. This raises the issue of whether positive online reviews of a physician can even be trusted as genuine, or are part of a strategy to elicit only favorable comments.

One the one hand, I can sympathize with any professional who is the target of a scathing, anonymous, online review. It may well be unwarranted, or done for vindictive purposes. But what is worse: resorting to a public lawsuit, or forcing patients to sign gag agreements as a pre-condition to receiving medical treatment? What kind of distrust does that foster in the physician-patient before you as a patient ever make it into the examining room?

On the other hand, a negative review might serve as a reality check if the professional’s bedside manner or client communication skills are suspect or lacking. Lawsuits and secrecy agreements aside, the best antibiotic against a bad online review is an old prescription: take the time to be pleasant and thorough with patients or clients, and show some empathy for their worries at a difficult time. Treating people the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their shoes is the best any professional can do. And if a bad online review surfaces that does not accurately portray who you are as a professional, it seems to me that many satisfied patients or clients will agree in a heartbeat to post their positive experiences with you.

In a world full of comment boxes and tweets, sometimes we make things way too complicated than they need to be.

SOURCE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

 

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