Think Twice Before Giving Advice!

It can be so tempting to offer professional advice on social media — but think twice! In this video think piece, partners Christina Billiet and Nicole Deford discuss the problems associated with offering advice on social media.

Maybe you’ve seen something like this in your Facebook feed. A mom pregnant with her second baby has just been diagnosed with preeclampsia — again! But she can’t get in to see her doctor and confirm when to start aspirin. She posts her question to a “mommy” message board and commenters jump in left and right with (different) advice. One advisor speaks with significant authority — “MFM here! Start aspirin by 12 weeks. Since you had early onset preeclampsia you may consider first trimester screening. We offer it.”

Helpful, yes. But risky to both the mom and the MFM? Also yes. That is why we advise our Maryland physicians: Never offer off-the-cuff medical advice, particularly on social media.

There are significant problems associated with offering medical advice on social media; in the example, there was no medical exam and no assessment of her medical history. What if this mom has developed some condition between pregnancies and now aspirin is contraindicated? What if she miscarries or hemorrhages two weeks later? If mom does have a complication due to aspirin and remembers that MFM’s “helpful” advice, the MFM could be the subject of a malpractice claim.

This issue is not limited to Facebook or “mommy” message boards. Doctors are called upon all the time to give impromptu medical advice to non-patients. We know it is hard to resist. But we caution our clients to consider the potential repercussions for all involved.

Bottom Line: When it comes to off-the-cuff medical advice to non-patients, think twice before giving advice!

Our Waranch & Brown team is always available to discuss this or any other legal issue. Please contact us.

Nicole Deford

Nicole Deford

Nicole Deford is a trial attorney and partner at Waranch & Brown. Her practice focuses primarily on defending hospitals and healthcare providers in medical malpractice cases and Board of Physicians/Board of Nursing licensure issues.
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