Archive for the ‘Defamation of Character’ Category

Service of Noses Out of Joint: Are Online Reviews by Patients on the Line?

Monday, September 25th, 2017

 

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Plastic surgeon Dr. Bahman Guyoron’s patient wasn’t pleased with the job he did on her nose to “alleviate nasal congestion,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Palazzolo, and while at it, he was to cosmetically tweak her beak. So she shared her thoughts about the outcome on a range of online review sites from RealSelf, Yelp to RateMDs.com, and Dr. Guyoron sued her.

The patient said she now must sleep with a breathing aid because her nostril collapses and that her nose is wider than it was before surgery. A second surgery by the same doctor didn’t fix the problems.

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Her lawyer said “her reviews were ‘substantially true or were her opinion,’” and that they didn’t harm the doctor’s reputation.

Palazzolo explained that the doctor would have to prove they were false and that he was damaged. “If the jury deemed him a public figure, he would have to show that [the patient] knew the information was false or showed reckless disregard for the truth.”

In email correspondence with the newspaper the patient wrote that her purpose was to inform others and that she didn’t expect to face financial ruin as a result. According to lawyers who handle such cases, wrote Palazzolo, “a negative comment can diminish a doctor’s business in short order.” And because doctors’ hands are tied due to privacy laws to discuss details of procedures, to get patients to erase such reviews some opt to sue.

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“‘Given how few defamation cases go to trial—and cases involving doctors are even more rare—any trial would be an important signpost for future litigation,’ said Sara Kropf, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who provides legal advice to doctors regarding patient reviews.” This trial is scheduled for February.

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At first Dr. Guyoron wanted the patient to remove the reviews and pay him $700,000, which she said she didn’t have. He now wants $1.8 million.

Knowing the risk to your wallet, would you think many times before posting online a negative review about any doctor? Doctors aren’t infallible: they make mistakes as we all do. Should review sites investigate/vet patient complaints before posting them? What are other effective ways to warn other patients about a doctor you’ve found faulty?

Photo: haririlaw.com

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