The tables have turned: doctors can sue patients

Many physicians, some of which even have their own practice, discover with amazement that patients complain about them on the Internet where users formulate numerous false allegations. In the end, the malicious comments will not only affect the feeling of the physician that has taken good care of the patient, but his practice will start losing patients as well, as a result of the negative reviews. As a result, many doctors have decided to lawyer up and with the help of Ottawa law firms they have started to sue patients for defamation of character. Although gossiping may seem as a harmless activity, it can cause lots of damage to the reputation of any professional. In what follows, it will be explained what a personal injury such as defamation of character really implies.

The legal definition

Defamation designates the publication of an untrue statement about a person. This statement or false allegation strongly minimizes the level of popularity that the person enjoys in the community owing to the fact that the false statement leads to a shift in opinion and the professional will be avoided in the end. Although the most common type of defamation is oral, meaning that the untrue statement is spread by word of mouth, in today’s technological era a person can be denigration of a person can be realized with the use of pictures or videos and gestures can also betray a hostile attitude. It is considered slander when the allegation has been transmitted to a third party, in other words someone other than the physician.

The problem with the so called physician-review websites

At present, due to the advent of technology and social platforms people spend much more time online communicating and sharing personal experiences. The great disadvantage is that the online environment has also encouraged many people to complain about their problems and owing to the fact that virtually anyone can create a false user account, the user cannot be identified. On such websites patients are invited to share their experience and to leave anonymous comments. The doctor is evaluated by the patient in terms of punctuality, manners, medical training etc. thus, the legitimacy of the doctor is up for debate and the grade that the medical physician receives determines his future popularity. While many experts strongly argue that these websites work towards improving the health care system, the reality contradicts this claim. Most of times, the anonymous reviews are not based on scientific data, but more on personal impressions.

Taking legal action

The law is not the same in all jurisdictions and while in some jurisdictions the claim of defamation is presumed to be true, in others the plaintiff has to actually prove the damage caused to the personal reputation and business. As a general rule, the defendant is considered too be negligent if he fails to verify the veridity of the statement that he passes on. The testimony of the plaintiff is not at all sufficient and he will have to get other persons to testify to the accuracy of his claim. In case that involve persons that have lost their jobs due to the reputation created, they can present in court documentation that is relevant to show contract termination and financial situation. Freedom of speech is respected and a person can make a harmless joke, but some statement can have damages effect on the person’s life and career and only these outcomes are regarded by tort law.

To sum up, doctor can protect themselves from slander if they seek a professional legal advisor that will help them prove in court the damages brought to the person’s reputation in the community where he works and lives. Medical physician have just as much right to protect themselves from personal injuries and clients should be aware of the fact that any comment can make them liable for compensation.