Hello there, Legal Beagle —
Short Answer: No, I’m not worried. And no, I don’t benefit from doing this.
Much Longer Answer: The main reason I don’t worry about “getting sued for diagnosing people online” is because I don’t benefit from this blog in any way (except that I get to complain about my patients and act all wise and knowledgeable to my readers, which is a nice catharsis and ego-boost, and is probably helping to delay my 1st heart attack by a few years). Nobody pays me to write this, and I don’t secretly charge people’s insurance for giving them educated advice about their health (or about med school applications, undergraduate pre-med majors, relationships, residency options, etc etc).
Another reason I don’t worry about it is because that’s what I’m doing here: giving advice. There is no way that I could accurately without-a-doubt diagnose anybody through a text-only forum when the symptoms are being provided in a non-guided method (i.e., the reader sends me a bunch of symptoms as they interpret them, without any follow-up and refining questions from me) such as here. So, nobody could (or should) take the “best guess” of this anonymous probably-a-doctor blogger and use that diagnosis as basis for anything, besides “Hmm, maybe my symptoms ARE more important than I thought, and I should go see my doctor about it soon” versus “Well, maybe I am reading too much into this, so I won’t go rushing into the ER tonight” — a decision which many people could make about their symptoms on their own, if they knew the right words to type into Google! (And honestly, if my questioners started typing more of their questions into Google instead of my inbox, they’d get most of their questions answered — just not necessarily in terms that they would understand. So, I also serve as a “medical interpreter” for the internet.)
The way I see it, in my Real Life job as an Urgent Care doctor (That assertion, by the way, you’ll just have to take on faith, since you don’t have a name or medical license number to verify with any licensing agency), the patient (or their insurance) pays me for my time and expertise, expertise which is certified by state and national agencies, and which is “backed up” by my willingness to actually show my face and to display my licenses on the wall, and which is additionally supported by the word-of-mouth generated by previous satisfied patients. Meanwhile, on forums across the internet, people constantly ask random strangers for advice about anything and everything (medical and non-medical), without any way of knowing if those replies have any expertise backing them up, but happy to get those strangers’ input on their question. I (1) happen to write pretty well, (2) listen and reply to what people say, and (3) seem to know enough about the medical education system and the human body to possibly be an actual doctor (As long as I refuse to reveal my “true identity”, then those are the extent of my “internet credentials”) — So, should my apparently-but-not-certified greater knowledge about medical issues make me MORE liable for giving free advice on those issues, compared to all the non-medical opinions floating around on the net? Food for thought.
Of course, in today’s lawsuit-happy world, I suppose anybody could sue me for something I write on this blog (that is your “right” as a modern-day human, after all, but I’d be pretty skeptical about any court convicting me of some wrongdoing here) — but then again, in my REAL LIFE CAREER, I could get sued by every single person I see, touch, operate on, and prescribe medications to in my clinic… and So Far, So Good, despite the much greater risks, actual “exchange of money”, and “establishment of a medical relationship” involved!
Perhaps, if/when I do get slapped with my first real-life lawsuit, my interest in using social media to more closely connect doctors to the Common Humanity of the Internet will wane. I don’t know. But for now, here I is, breaking no laws that I’m aware of, and having a grand old time at no cost to myself (or anyone who reads this stuff), so here I intends to stay.
***Pending Cranquis-Mails: 16***