TULI V. Votour

MARCH 31, 2013

Doctors firing back at patients’ online critiques

Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe

During Lyn Votour’s struggle against bone cancer and a cascade of complications, her husband slept with her in the intensive care unit for nine weeks. Back home in Central Massachusetts, he changed her bandages, replaced her feeding tube, and shielded her from debt collectors.

And as she lay dying on the hospital bed in their living room, he snuggled beside her, holding her hand.

They had been married 26 years, and his wife’s death at age 46 overpowered Gary Votour with doubt and rage. He was furious at himself for allowing her to have surgery, during which she had a stroke, at friends who didn’t visit, and at his wife’s neurosurgeon.

Believing that airing his concerns would help him heal, Votour requested a meeting with the surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. When the surgeon turned him down, Votour’s psychiatrist urged him to write her an “open letter’’ online, detailing his concerns about his wife’s medical care.

He got a response, just not the one he had hoped for.

Last month, the surgeon, Dr. Sagun Tuli, sued Votour and the owner of the website for defamation in Middlesex Superior Court, demanding $100,000 for the damage she said the blog post had done to her career. Her lawyer, David Rich of Boston, said Votour’s blog popped up on the first page of Google search results for Tuli, who now works at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham. Votour has since removed the blog post.

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SEPTEMBER 26, 2013

“Doctors, Patients Battle Over Online Critiques”

Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe

Gary Votour’s wife, Lyn, died of complications from bone cancer and soon after, he blogged about his dissatisfaction with the medical care Dr. Sagun Tuli had given her. Dr. Tuli filed a $100,000 defamation lawsuit against him in Middlesex Superior Court in February.

Votour – who owes thousands of dollars in credit card debt for expenses related to Lyn’s illness – was taken under the wing of major Boston lawfirm, WilmerHale, which agreed to represent him free of charge.

The case was moved to federal court in Boston and Votour’s attorney, Adam Hornstine, has filed a motion to dismiss Tuli’s lawsuit. The firm believes the case may have broader implications: Among other reasons, Hornstine has filed a potential challenge with the court and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office to a state law that can hold people liable for making true statements under certain circumstances, which he argues is unconstitutional. “It’s an affirmative defense protecting my right to free speech,’’ said Votour, who said he posted the blog because Tuli refused to meet with him to answer questions about a stroke his wife suffered during surgery.

While Votour took down his blog in February, he said settlement talks with Tuli have failed so far.

Tuli’s attorney, David Rich, said he could not comment on the case. But he told me last Spring that Votour’s criticisms were false and that the blog damaged his client’s career.

This lawsuit is part of a wave of claims brought by doctors against former patients, and sometimes their relatives, over negative ratings and reviews they have posted on the Internet. These reviews have shifted the balance of power among doctors and patients.

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 SEPTEMBER 26, 2013

“Doctors, Patients Battle Over Online Critiques”

By Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe

Earlier this year, I wrote a story about Gary Votour’s legal battle with neurosurgeon Dr. Sagun Tuli. Votour’s wife, Lyn, died of complications from bone cancer and soon after, he blogged about his dissatisfaction with the medical care Tuli had given her.

Tuli filed a $100,000 defamation lawsuit against him in Middlesex Superior Court in February.

Given the fervent reader interest in Votour’s situation, I want to provide an update on the case, as well as on another lawsuit I mentioned in my April story. It was brought by California neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Filler against a former patient in 2011.

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