GREENSBORO, N.C., Aug. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Medical Justice Services, Inc., which has successfully helped physicians and dentists defend themselves against meritless medical malpractice lawsuits for the past six years, has introduced a new way for physicians and dentists to fight back against defamation on the World Wide Web.
The program, which prevents defamatory online postings about physicians on doctor rating sites and blogs, solves a problem that's exploded in the past year, according to Jeffrey Segal, M.D., founder and president of Medical Justice Services.
"In most circumstances in America, publishing something that's untrue and defamatory about someone else can be solved by filing a libel or slander lawsuit in civil court," said Dr. Segal. "But when a defamatory message about a doctor is spread to thousands or millions of people with the click of a mouse, physicians are generally left with no reliable recourse."
That's because physicians and dentists can't sue a Web site that hosts false and defamatory content about them, the way that they could sue a newspaper or broadcast station. In 1996, Congress passed the Communication Decency Act, immunizing Internet Service Providers from being sued for defamation.
But Medical Justice has a solution that works. It uses patient-friendly contract language to both prevent the posting of defamatory information before it occurs -- and provide physicians with an appropriate way to put a stop to it if it is posted online.
The program is free to physicians who become Medical Justice members, or is available separately for $495 for the first year and $350 each year thereafter.
Dr. Segal first developed the idea of using a contract to address defamation, after Medical Justice used contract language to successfully prevent its member physicians from being sued for frivolous reasons.
With Medical Justice's anti-defamation program, patients sign a contract of mutual privacy, in which they agree not to post anything on the Internet about their doctor's care without their doctor's permission. In return, the physician gives the patient additional privacy protections beyond those mandated by federal law.
Physician rating sites are regularly informed as to which physicians have license to use the contract language -- and plans are in the works to verify that those sites are not interfering with the pre-existing contracts between doctors and patients.
If an anonymous posting does appear, the site is informed of the contract -- and warned that if the post remains, the site may incur liability.
Dr. Segal pointed out that while web sites can't be sued for defamation, they have been successfully sued by companies who set out to enforce prior confidentiality agreements with their now ex-employees. Confidentiality agreements between doctors and patients would likely be similarly successful.
Does it violate a patient's First Amendment rights? No. The First Amendment generally applies to government action. Here, the doctor and patient are not state actors. The restrictions are minimal -- and patients remain free to report inappropriate medical care or treatment to state licensing boards, professional medical societies, third party payers, friends, family, or other doctors. They can even file a malpractice lawsuit.
Dr. Segal said that the intent is to ensure that the doctor-patient relationship remains strong. This is best accomplished by strengthening privacy protections for each party. Such protections have always been important for patients. They are equally important for physicians.
"In few other occupations is an individual's reputation more important," said Dr. Segal. "A physician's most valuable asset, resulting from the years of training and experience, is his or her reputation. It's something that you can literally spend decades building and it can be ruined in a few seconds with the click of a mouse."
About Medical Justice Services Inc.: Run by physicians for physicians, Medical Justice is a membership-based organization that offers proactive services designed to deter proponents of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as a proven strategy for successful countersuit prosecution.
For more information, please visit our website at http://www.medicaljustice.com or telephone (336) 691-1286.
|SOURCE Medical Justice Services Inc.|
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