Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Unbeknownst to me, there has been a backlash against medical blogging here lately. Articles in USA Today among others point out that people are worried that medical blogs invade their privacy or give false medical advice. (Thanks to Kevin MD for hosting that article, and for his great post about the same subject I'm going to try to touch on here). Last year, a well-read blog by an author called "Barbados Butterfly" was shut down after a public outcry at her hospital in Australia. Sadly, even though she has started posting again, it's by invitation only, so since I wasn't fortunate enough to read her work before she left the internet, I'm not fortunate enough to get to read her work now. I understand, though; just because I say I'm a med student in the US doesn't mean I'm not her boss in Australia in disguise. Apparently, you have to be careful.

Within the past week, two great medical blogs have been pulled. Flea, a pediatrician, deleted his writings amongst news of a lawsuit (perhaps not even related to the blog). One of my favorite authors, Fat Doctor, has deleted her blog and will be going to invite-only if she returns to writing, after a coworker printed her blog and gave it to her boss to read. Fortunately, her boss was cool about it, but she went ahead and deleted the blog.

I'm saddened for two reasons. First, all of us readers have lost some of our best daily entertainment. Reading FD's blog was like taking a fast-forward into my future, with all the triumphs and frustrations being a doctor, a wife, and a mother can bring. Reading about her battles with obesity and multiple health problems was inspiring. Trust me, we're all poorer for losing her writing.

Second, what does this mean for those of us who are still writing? I can't pretend to be on a par with any of the three I mentioned, but it's still possible that someone beyond my control could read my blog, figure out who I am, and get me in trouble. I do try to maintain patient confidentiality and remain respectful to my patients, but you can't predict whose feelings will be hurt by something. In our litigious culture, it seems we have to aim not for what won't offend the masses but what won't offend the super sensitive.

My biggest motivation for writing this blog is to vent some of what I see and deal with at work. There's something healing about writing, and it's even better to find other people who are going through the same thing elsewhere. There's more potential for positive change when we can all recognize common problems--when you realize you're not alone. Through writing and reading medical blogs, there's a kind of network formed. Taking away those networks doesn't really benefit anybody, patients or doctors.

It just makes me uneasy and a little paranoid, knowing that there are people so easily convinced of the "problem" of medical blogging. Fitting, considering the rotation I'm on, I suppose. If I start looking over my shoulder and whispering that they're out to get me, just shoot me full of vitamin H, okay?


The Peanut Gallery said...

When did Fat Doctor go down?? I've gotten behind on my blog reading lately. I can't believe it. I miss her already. :(

Allison said...

Do you remember when the accounting firm where I worked found my blog and I had to shut it down or risk losing my job offer?

It's a growing trend in all fields. It's good that you remain quasi anonymous. My problem was that I had my name associated with it. But I'm sure you'll be golden! And if not, I will be the CEO of a major hospital system, and I'll get you a job.

Ms-Ellisa said...

It's quite sad because if you think of it almost every blogger disguises the names and everything recognisable.

gaucho said...

On a totally unrelated topic, thanks for adding the RSS links! On a related topic, I feel paranoid about my blog and have been debating for a while taking it down and migrating it to a place a little more anonymous.

Turks said...

The nice thing about lj is that you can selectively lock what you allow people to see. I had some bad experiences with some uninvited people reading my blog, so I locked up.

It's sad, but I guess as you say, you can't guarentee you won't be sued.