January 31, 2013
“Minnesota Supreme Court Rules In Defamation Suit”
Insure Physicians Blog
A ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit by a by Dr. David McKee, a Minnesota neurologist, against the son of a former patient. The budding author had posted a scathing online review of the physician including the comment that an unnamed nurse called Dr. McKee “a real tool”. The final ruling was based on evidence that the postings were based on opinions and not statements of facts. This matter gained a lot of media attention as websites followed and reported on the case.
The online review came after Dr. David McKee treated an elderly World War II veteran. The veteran’s son was disappointed in McKee’s lack of bedside manner. The review pointed out that McKee lacked concern and care for his father both in actions and words. The defendant posted these comments on a website designed for reviewing physicians and said he was simply exercising his right to free speech. The court agreed that these comments were not defamation, but simply protected speech.
Dr. McKee was reported as spending over $61,000 in legal bills against the [ son ] of his patient and on services to remove the mention of this event from websites. When asked about this, McKee said it was money well spent and in five years he wouldn’t even remember spending that much.
Many doctors are faced with online criticism. It is up to the individual physician to decide how to handle it. Some may turn to hiring third parties and asking family members to scour the internet in order to intimidate others to remove the mention of a public legal matter. Others may handle it more graciously. It is our opinion that a physician should either ignore the matter completely or change their behavior to avoid criticism. Doctors usually have many reviews placed about them – both favorable and vitriolic. Paying undue attention to the unfavorable comments or being obsessed with their removal may just backfire, causing others to think that the physician actually does have something to hide.