“Medical Justice” Gags Prospective Patients from Posting

Imagine if everything you discussed with your physician was required to be kept private. Not just information about you, the patient, but that information about your treatment by the physician had to be kept private too.

The blog e-patients describes how the firm Medical Justice is helping doctors avoid consumer ratings, and the prospect of defamatory statements, by getting patients to sign an agreement saying all their conversations are the doctor’s property, trade secrets, which the patient isn’t allowed to tell anyone.

A closer read of Medical Justice’s website suggests their agreement restricts patients from publishing reviews and accounts of treatment, though they can still tell relatives and health care officials about any concerns they may have.  The site objects to this arrangement being called a gag order instead of a “mutual privacy agreement.”

What’s the Real Benefit?
There are lots of ways around the agreement. Patients can still tell relatives, who can post under their own names, or they can post anonymously.  However, this thin claim of IP rights is enough to file a take-down notice, and many services will comply.  The logic getting an anonymous post taken down could go “all my patients have given me full rights to public information about our case, so either I own the IP in the post, or this is a defamatory post from a non-patient.”

Medical Justice watches social media sites for the names of doctors who have contracted to use these agreements, and then files take-down notices.

Considering how many insurance claims are in part paid for with public dollars, requiring patients to give up speech rights for publically subsidized medical treatment approaches absurdity.

Indeed, social media can be biased, and certainly non-representative.  But this attempt to bully social media away is foolish. Asking patients to sign over their rights to discuss their treatment publicly as a condition for treatment just seems desperate at best, and repulsively unfair at worst.

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