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Doctors Demand Online Silence From Patients

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 2:08 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Tort Reform, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Free Speech, Medical Malpractice, Medical Injury, Preventable Errors

Medical Justice hopes to keep patients critical of their doctors silent online 

LEARN MORE

 

IMAGE SOURCE:  Medical Justice Web site 

Go to a doctor and besides the mountain of forms covering insurance and pre-existing conditions, you might find a new requirement to sign before the doctor agrees to treat you.

Nationwide, about 2,000 doctors have joined Medical Justice, a Greensboro, North Carolina company that provides the forms to patients, who by signing, essentially agree to forego their right to post negative comments about doctors on the internet.

Medical Justice founder, neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Segal, founded the company in 2002 to prevent so-called “frivolous lawsuits” a favorite phrase of the business-backed tort reform campaign. Medical Justice launched the internet libel effort in 2007.

The Medical Justice Web site says Dr. Segal “has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims and internet-based assaults on reputation.”

Patients who sign the “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy” form promise they “will not denigrate, defame, disparage or cast aspersions upon,” the  doctor and will prevent friends and family from doing so as well.  

The prohibition applies to a service like Angie’s List, which launched a health-care rating service in March. 

Founder, Angie Hicks told Florida Health News in an e-mail, “ As a consumer advocate, I would oppose this practice as nothing short of an attempt to steal the consumers’ right to free speech.”

Angie’s List requires contributors to post their names.  The Medical Justice form applies whether a person makes a comment anonymously or not. 

A woman who sent Florida Health News a copy of such an agreement used by a Brandon, Florida neurosurgeon suggested it be called a “gag order.” She said her mother decided to seek another surgeon rather than sign it.

“We’re not opposed to free speech,” Segal said to the publication. “The problem is the whole notion of being able to post anything you want. The physician can’t defend himself.”

Doctors Feel The Pressure

On his Web site, Dr. Segal talks about how Medical Justice can help doctors who, “Feel the pressure.”

   “Each year many groundless medical malpractice suits are initiated against health care providers. Physicians are pressured to settle frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits in order to minimize their financial risk. Damaging physician's reputations. Creating undue stress.  And greatly increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums. The legal system leaves physicians vulnerable to frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits filed by unethical plaintiffs, attorneys, and "expert" witnesses. – Justice can be yours.” 

Medical Justice claims that joining the group provides a deterrence to lawsuits.  Members practicing medicine in “crisis states” such as Florida have a less than two percent medical malpractice rate compared to eight to 12 percent nationwide, the Web site says.

As part of its service, Medical Justice will scan sites that rate physicians for postings on members.  Segal says having a patient sign the agreement gives the member a way to have the posting removed for up to five years after the patient’s last day of treatment. 

The Story Behind Medical Malpractice Lawsuits 

In his book, The Medical Malpractice Myth (University of Chicago Press, 2006), author Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, looked at the history, statistics, and politics of the medical malpractice debate.

He is not pro-doctor or anti-lawyer.

He suggests that medical malpractice lawsuits exist because there is too much medical malpractice and that not enough victims sue after malpractice occurs.

A lawsuit serves the purpose of bringing the bad doctors, hospitals and policies to light improving patient safety, he suggests. Without lawsuits, Baker says it is the victim who is bearing the real cost of medical malpractice.

“Medical malpractice lawsuits promote traditional American values like access to justice, personal responsibility, and freedom from intrusive government regulation,” he writes.

The tort reform movement coined the phrase, “frivolous lawsuits” to mean those that lack evidence of substandard care or treatment-related injury.  Frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of health care, says the movement, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

A Harvard School of Public Health study challenges that view.

The study from May 2006 finds most malpractice claims involve medical error and serious injury, and conclude “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown,” 

The American Association for Justice (AAJ), representing trial attorneys, says the vast majority of victims of medical malpractice never pursue taking a doctor to court. 

One among eight people injured by medical malpractice, ever files a malpractice claim, Harvard finds.

Ray De Lorenzi, press secretary for the AAJ cites a May 2006 Harvard School of Public Health study that finds most malpractice claims involve medical error and serious injury, and conclude “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown,” 

An expert panel from the Institute of Medicine reported in 1999, that medical errors kill from 44,000 to 98,000 Americans each year.

HealthGrades, a hospital rating organizations, in its fifth annual report in 2008, says that medical errors are costing us billions and leading to preventable deaths. It suggests if low-performing hospitals could reach top-ranked hospitals, there were be 37,000 fewer deaths annually and a savings of about $2 billion.  #


8 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by George
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 1:22 AM EST

Negative comments usually arise due to poor communications or misunderstandings between doctors and patients. A way to improve communications and thereby mutual respect, is to use an on line service such as LINK , that;s free and easy to use.

Posted by Justin
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 12:24 PM EST

After all these year doctors still don't get it. They have caused this problem by failing to police their own. They are in a constant state of denial saying medical malpractice lawsuits are ruining their practices. Many injuries at the hands o-f doctors are never reported. It's a problem that won't be solved unless doctors start taking responsibility for their actions! The best way to eliminate malpractice lawsuits is practicing SAFETY FIRST. Something that the doctors who complain about frivilous lawsuits seem to forget!

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 12:33 PM EST

Justin-

It's been reported that just five percent of U.S. doctors are making 54 percent of all mistakes, so your comments appear to be right on target. Certainly cleaning up the profession would be a good step to reducing medical errors.

Thanks!

Posted by Ben Glass
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 1:24 PM EST

ummmm...wonder how many of them never complain about any product or service they get..

but hey, this is America... you have a free choice to exercise your will to see that doctor or not...He's got free will to run his practice as he sees fit...I would say that the best doctors running great practices don't have to get their patients to pre-agree to a conspiracy of silence.

Those folks think its important enough to have a patient sign such a form probably have good reason to have the patient sign the form.

Ben Glass
Author: The Truth About Lawyer Advertising
and
Why Most Medical Malpractice Victims Never Recover a Dime
Both available at Amazon.com

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 3:01 PM EST

My question to Medical Justice, which has so far not returned my call - is what if you want to say something good about your doctor? Perhaps, possibly, it could be, that you LOVE your doctor and the treatment you are receiving. You feel better than ever and want others with the same problem to know there might be a solution!

Stay tuned...

Posted by PF
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 10:08 PM EST

Doctors enjoyed a lack of accountabilty pre-internet, now they are being held accountable without asking for their blessing. You can make anonymous ratings at websites like HealthcareReviews.com and even powerful lobbyist cannot shut down the internet to stop this. Fighting it is futile, displaying ignorance of modern technolgies and the changing world around them.

Posted by linda ann chartier
Friday, February 20, 2009 9:58 AM EST

Well if I am ever presented with such a form.I will move along the list in my insurance group. I refuse to sign much of the Privacy Agreements.I know that those Doctors get to have the last word reguardles of what any-ones wishes are and allowing them to have even more wiggle room for accountability issues is going way to far deep! I demand change with the HIPAA often used a tool to HIDE "HIPAA HIDING" as well as the Administration in Hospitals Abuse there Power and OUST a ADVOCATE for a suspicion,or a Loved one witnessing the Bad practices in NJ it is criminal in my opinion,and I am seeking a Lawyer to help me with my LAW SUIT! The more I read and view my fathers records the more crap I see,switching out the order of the first page in reports to sway a reader away from a Doctor claiming LUNG INJURY(my father never stood,ate,sat breathed after a open heart surgery) and xray to RULE out metal objects? I was next of kin and they refused to allow me info or a second opinion,and when I made formal complaint as to non use of gloevs they got rid of me!.I filed Pro Se' the day before the statute was up!! damit! WHO the hell do these doctors and faclitys think they are? GOD? I am done

Posted by nwc
Sunday, March 08, 2009 10:45 PM EST

Freedom of expression is a First Amendment right. Most of the comments that I've read on websites, including HERS Foundation's "Name That Doctor and Hospital", are not about human error. They are about high-handed doctors who are bullying, rude, snide, and sometimes outright abusive.

Some would try to excuse doctors with comments like "We all make mistakes". But I have not read comments about "mistakes", it's quite the opposite, the comments are about "deliberates", like removing the female organs from women without giving them the information that is requisite to informed consent.

Comments for this article are closed.

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