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Doctors Try to Gag Patients to Prevent Posting of Online Comments

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: doctors, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) A growing number of doctors are seeking to reign in the growing popularity of Web sites that allow patients to rate the service they receive.

North Carolina neurosurgeon Jeffrey Segal has started a business, Medical Justice, that supplies standardized waiver agreements that bar patients from posting any online comments about their doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment." Doctors are advised to have every new and current patient sign the waiver agreement, and to encourage those who refuse to sign to find a different physician.

No cases have been reported of doctors ending their relationship with longtime patients who refuse to sign.

"Published comments on Web pages, blogs and/or mass correspondence, however well intended, could severely damage physician's practice," a standard waiver reads.

Approximately 2,000 doctors have signed up with Medical Justice since it launched two years ago, and a number have used the waivers to force the removal of negative comments from Web sites.

The web site Angie's List, which also reviews contractors, caterers and other service providers, requires users to supply their personal information and will pass that on to doctors if asked. In a recent survey, however, the majority of site users said they had never been presented with a waiver form, and only 3 percent said they would sign one.

The web site RateMD, in contrast, features anonymous postings and has repeatedly refused to turn over personal information to doctors or remove negative reviews.

"They're basically forcing the patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment rights, and I really find that repulsive," said site co-founder John Swapceinski.

The site is planning a "Wall of Shame" containing the names of doctors who use the waivers.

Internet law expert Jim Speta of Northwestern University expressed doubt that the patient waivers could actually be legally binding.

"Courts might say the balance of power between doctors and patients is very uneven," he said.

Sources for this story include: www.google.com.

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