​Doctors and social media

By Matthew Wilson and Wanda Karow

We take a number of telephone calls and other enquiries each year from doctors and other clinical professionals who call our claims advice line with reports of damaging information being published about them or inadvertent publication by them of potentially prejudicial comments about others. Discussions arise on the subjects of defamation, breach of confidence, professional conduct and harassment. The callers are often upset or concerned or occasionally angry and looking for advice (if not retribution) about their legal position and any remedies available to combat what has usually become a distracting, sometimes a highly distracting, episode. So we thought we would cover this subject in this article, having regard not only to pitfalls but also the insurance policy issues that might arise.

In her article for the British Medical Journal, Margaret McCartney, a GP in Glasgow, looked at the difficulties of maintaining professionalism within social media. She reported that in the police force, freedom-of-information data revealed that over a four-year period two officers had been sacked, seven had resigned and more than 150 had been disciplined for placing ‘inappropriate’ photographs or comments online. In the clinical professions, she reported that nurses had been sacked after making comments about patients and colleagues or posting revealing photographs of themselves in uniform, or of patients, online. Disciplinary steps are being taken against doctors who posted derogatory comments about colleagues…

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