There are websites devoted to rating — or berating — almost anyone whose services you use: butcher, baker, birthday cake maker, hairdresser, professor and many, many more.
Comments on these sites are almost always posted anonymously, and range from endorsement to impeachment. But as MSNBC.com reports, a growing number of doctors are insisting that their patients sign contracts — “gag orders”, some critics call them — promising not to divulge details of their medical experience on any public website.
According to MSNBC.com, “Such contracts haven’t been tested in court, and Internet law experts say they’re unlikely to prevail.” But backers of the restrictions say they are necessary because doctors who are defamed online can’t publicly counter a patient’s charges due to federal privacy laws. Further, said one doctor of reputation-wrecking writers, “You don’t know whether it’s a patient, an ex-employee, an ex-spouse, or even a competitor.”
RateMDs.com, which encourages patients to rank physicians’ “helpfulness” among other attributes, has posted the names of doctors requiring “gag contracts” to its online “Wall of Shame.” Says the site’s founder, “Essentially, patients are being asked to trade in their freedom of speech for medical care.”
Tell us what you think: Is it right to anonymously criticize a doctor online? Is it right for doctors to ask patients to sign a code of silence?