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Censorship Medicine Your Rights Online

Doctors Silencing Online Patient Reviews Via Contract 324

Posted by timothy
from the that's-one-view-of-the-1st-amendment dept.
Condiment writes "Next time you're sick, take five and actually read the pile of contracts your doctor dumps on your lap, because it's becoming more and more likely that your doctors are banning patients from posting reviews on the Web. You heard that right: as a prerequisite to receiving medical care, patients are in many cases required to sign away their First Amendment rights!"
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Doctors Silencing Online Patient Reviews Via Contract

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  • by dave562 (969951) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:05PM (#27083355) Journal

    I'm not sure about the laws in other states, but here in California I refuse to sign a lot of the paperwork all of the time. I always refuse to sign the waiver that asks me to give up my rights to sue over medical malpractice.

    I think that as Americans we get conditioned to sign everything and rarely think about not doing it. Every time I refuse, I get weird looks, but I've never once been denied service.

  • by imemyself (757318) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:09PM (#27083439)
    This was actually brought up my commercial law class this morning. Our professor's opinion was that it was probably legal if just a few doctors were doing it. But, if all doctors in an area were doing it and it was not possible to obtain medical care without agreeing to this, it's possible that courts may not recognize the contract, because it was a "contract of adhesion".
  • Re:Reality check. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:19PM (#27083589)

    Well, one way to counter a non-compete is to make a counter offer that stipulates a paycheck for every normal pay period that is equal to what I would have gotten for working here, up to however many years.

    Then you proceed to use that money for _not working_ to go back to school and get a better degree.

  • Re:First Amendment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:29PM (#27083749) Homepage

    Please stop claiming First Amendment rights when the government is not involved.

    No, and I'm not going to stop until the government passes a law saying I can't. :P

  • by ushering05401 (1086795) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:31PM (#27083789) Journal

    You can actually take this advice pretty far, but you may need to fight to get services of certain sorts.

    In a tough economy the candidates that return employment contracts with paragraphs lined through are setting themselves up for a fall.

    I witnessed the pain of a contract non conformist first hand while working with a fellow - we can call him 'Mr. New Hampshire.'

    Mr. New Hampshire refused to use his Social Security number for anything. Combine this with the fact that SS nums are the most overused weak authentication scheme ever devised, and many contracts 'require' an SS num... you can imagine the problems that ensued. Every single service this guy wanted including insurances of all sorts, I-9 employment eligibility verifications etc had to get routed through drawn out legal processes. In the end he would always get his way, but only three or four months after everyone else.

  • Re:non-issue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Em Emalb (452530) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [blameme]> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:32PM (#27083805) Homepage Journal

    Dude, been there, done that, except for the getting fired part.

    Had a guy go off one time on the phone about Clinton's "cigar" and "I didn't have sexual relations" thing when I was on the phone with him. He asked me my opinion and I said I didn't really care, as his getting (or not getting) some nookie didn't have anything to do with the state of the country. He got really irritated that I thought that (should have said I have no opinion, in hindsight) and then started lambasting democrats, Clinton, etc, complete with f-bombs and all that. I just hung up on him. Not because I'm a Clinton apologist, but because I didn't care.

    When they asked me about it, I said I accidentally hit the release button on my headset. They wanted to punish me for pissing off the customer, but since they couldn't prove the hangup was intentional, they couldn't. Win-win. I got to hang up on a butthead and received no punishment for it. (I quit that company not long after that) :)

  • Problem with mindset (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ParanoiaBOTS (903635) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:44PM (#27083989) Homepage
    I think that people have the wrong idea about contracts. Contracts don't make it so you CAN'T do something, they just make it so there are possible consequences for it. If I signed a waiver and then posted about the doctor this merely (possibly) gives him the right to take legal action for it. But in that regard the damage is already done. As we have witnessed countless times, once something it out on the web, the harder you try to suppress it the more attention it attracts. It really boils down to do you think someone will act on the contract, and if so, how bad are the possible consequences.
  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:57PM (#27084203)

    IANAL....No matter how many forms you sign, you are legally protected from ever waiving your right to sue.

    No, that is not true. Mandatory Binding Arbitration has held up in court many, many times. You are giving up your right to a traditional court, and being forced to follow the rules and decisions of the arbitrator, who the company that makes you sign the contract gets to pick. (guess who they side with more than 90% of the time!).

  • Re:non-issue (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @07:08PM (#27084367)

    Arguably, the government is taking away your freedom of speech, in this instance, through its enforcement of contract law.

  • by boombaard (1001577) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @07:08PM (#27084369) Journal

    I mean, how likely are you to be able to refuse to sign this, if your health is at stake?
    How likely is it period to expect your physician to put this form under your nose before being willing to help you? It seems somewhat comparable to a EULA in that regard, seeing that there is no way to test the product other than by 'buying' it first. Can that be binding?
    the NDA comparison doesn't seem to apply, since you don't generally sign NDAs in life-threatening situations, or situations in which you are perhaps intentionally kept uninformed of the consequences of signing such a thing.

    And what happens then? Can your physician refuse to treat you? Can he do so always, only in 'non-life-threatening' cases, or never? It seems very murky, medical ethics-wise.

  • Re:non-issue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fratermus (608212) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @07:10PM (#27084391) Homepage
    I'd say the agreement could be that the patient is free to post about the doctor. The patient agrees that doing so allows the physician to post, in public, about the patient. This should help us identify legitimate whistleblowers from Munchhausen whackjob hypochondriacs and whiners.
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @08:27PM (#27085383)
    ...doesn't mean it's enforceable, or even legal. Clauses that violate a person's civil rights are never binding, even if accepted willingly.
  • Not gonna sign (Score:3, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @08:41PM (#27085561) Journal

    If it's not an emergency, I won't sign such a form, and if the doc doesn't like it, there's others. If it IS an emergency, I'll sign, write the bad review if I get bad service, and argue about unconscionable terms later.

    If the state doctor's association convinces every doctor in the state, or my insurance company convinces all its member doctors, to require such a form, I'll post the bad reviews under a pseudonym. If they're going to collude, I'm going to cheat.

  • by Walkingshark (711886) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @08:58PM (#27085737) Homepage

    You can always split the difference by crossing out the part where they get to pick the guy and writing in that YOu get to pick it, then signing that part and making sure you keep a carbon of the document with the modifications on it. Then enjoy the look of surprise on their face when they find out your mom is arbitrating the malpractice claim.

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @09:13PM (#27085885) Homepage Journal

    I think that the large health care company that is funneling millions of dollars of work to a *specific arbitration company* (at least, it is that way with Kaiser) is not going to get equal justice in such a setup. Or, rather, Kaiser will get justice, and patients will get nothing. I got to watch all that when my father tried to sue them after they nearly killed him (they injected him with radioactive iodine, which he turned out to be hideously allergic to, and then left him alone for three hours as he was weakly pushing the nurse call button over and over - my mother ended up sneaking in to see what was wrong with him since she thought she heard he was calling for help... and was right). The arbitration company that Kaiser funnels said millions of dollars to a year issues a blanket ruling absolving Kaiser of any wrongdoing in the matter. My dad then sued the arbitration company for a conflict of interest, and lost in a real court.

    Good times, good times.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @10:45PM (#27086665)

    I was injured in an on the job accident, an office chair flipped me. The Safety Officer took me to the hospital and after speaking with the admissions nurse told me I couldn't be treated unless I took a drug test.

    This was a new policy the company had implemented and since I didn't agree to it I refused. The Safety Officer and several of the nurses became absolutely irate and acted as they couldn't believe I was refusing the test.

    The Safety Officer told me in that case I couldn't be treated and the nurses backed him up.

    As I was leaving to catch a cab the presiding doctor ran out of the building and *begged* me to return inside so he could treat me.

    I did and he did. After diagnosing the problem and recommending the appropriate treatment he apologized again for the 'misunderstanding' earlier. It seemed to me at the time he was mightily afraid of being sued for refusing treatment.

    After returning to work neither the VP I worked for nor the Safety officer ever mentioned it.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @11:08PM (#27086839) Journal

    I pay for employer provided healthcare through my hard work, so I'm not getting it for free.

    This is a reason I'd like to see government mandated group status for individuals. I was drawn to Obama last summer because one of this thoughts on healthcare was to open up the FEHB (federal employees) group to all Americans. Now, don't get me wrong, the federal full-service plan is expensive - but it is very good, and there are some HDHP options (I think). I am an employer (a small one), and I provide benefits for my employees, but for a while I was on my own. My rates were good (great, really, but I was thirty-something and healthy), but any year I became too expensive for my insurer I could have been dropped. Give people group status with such a large group has benefits primarily for the consumer, but the federal market of 2M+ insured is too big a chunk for most major healthcare companies to write off entirely.

    If nobody got healthcare from their employers, and there were competition (as there is in FEHB) on the open market the system would be a bit more flexible. I don't think a single payer system will make healthcare better or more efficient. It's true that, to a certain extent, if you don't pay for top rate healthcare you don't get first rate healthcare. This is straying a bit for from the topic, as the ability to write reveiws or not does not (or should not) affect the rates you pay at the doctor's office, but it does speak to the breadth of choice. With more expensive coverage normally comes greater freedom of choice - which would allow you to vote with your feet. As with just about everything in life, the more you pay the more you can choose your path. I am not at the top of the money pile, so this is a bit of my own dogfood, but as mother used to say, "beggars can't be choosers." *shrug*

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @11:53PM (#27087123) Homepage Journal

    I wouldn't be surprised to find out physician arrogance was a leading cause of malpractice suits.

    Well, consider it a contributing factor. It's actually bad blood between patient and physician that is the #1 cause of malpractice suits; sometimes that's rooted in an unreasonable physician, sometimes in an unreasonable patient or family. Also, the specialty makes a huge difference: in a general practice, there's a great deal more handholding required. I'm an anesthesiologist, and I have what I think is a pretty good bedside manner for my specialty. I'd be bad at family practice, but the qualities people seem to respond well to in anesthesiologists are the same things they want in airline pilots: a calm, unexcitable person you'd trust with your life (because you're definitely doing that). It's a good fit for me, but not for everyone.

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