Medical Blogging: To Be Or Not To Be?
That is the question du jour. Due to certain recent happenings in the medical blogging community there has been some debate about this issue. Without re-hashing actual events (do a Google search and you'll be up to speed), the question of ethical issues surrounding blogging in the medical world seems to be at the core of the debate.
Is it right for people who have been entrusted with the health and well-being of others, with their deepest darkest secrets (medically speaking), with their life and death issues (literally), to turn around and share that information with the world? Well of course the basic answer is no. Morally, ethically, legally...that's just plain wrong. Does it happen though? But of course! We (medical professionals) talk amongst ourselves all the time, oh yes, when HIPAA was instituted we had to blanket our conversations under the cloak of "medical professionals involved in the care of the patient" but we still did it, just more cautiously.
Now I'm not saying it is right to gossip about your patients or put all their business out in the streets (or in this case, out on the information superhighway), not at all. What I am saying is that the same benefits we derived from sharing with our colleagues face-to-face i.e. the second opinions, the confirmation that we made the right call (or not), the bouncing off of ideas... On a more personal level sometimes we just needed to vent our frustrations to someone else whom we knew would totally understand and sympathize with us - patients getting angry (not "mildly upset" but rather, enraged) at you because of their insurance company restrictions, you getting angry at the insurance companies as well (don't let me start), being physically assaulted by someone you are trying to help, being held up at gun point (albeit plastic) for the "good stuff" (PS: I'm a pharmacist and I don't mean money...not many other medical professionals get to work behind bullet-proof glass or need police escorts to get them safely home, but, I digress)... Then there are those cute stories you want to share, when you make a visible and marked difference in someone's life, when you get to make a positive impact on someone's health, when you see that baby leave the hospital alive because you caught a potentially deadly drug dose miscalculation, when you prevent a life-threatening drug interaction, when the disoriented mentally-ill parolee asks for your hand in marriage and won't take no for an answer...These are the things you just want to share with someone.
It is easiest to share them with those in the same situation but from time-to-time you find that other people are interested in such stories. Now I will admit I have shared many a work story with friends and family but the people I have told will never in a million years be able to figure out who any given patient in my stories were. That's because I never divulge identities or give anywhere near sufficient information to even try to narrow down the field. The key is to maintain patient anonymity. It's just that simple. Should peoples' right to free speech be squelched just because they wear a white coat, know more than any human being ought to about medications (not me but people I know), respond to "code blue's or red's" or have the power of physical life and death in their hands (okay maybe that's taking it a bit too far but you get my point). I say no, one's career path ought not strip one of their inalienable rights. The key I believe, is just not to strip anyone else of their own rights in the process.
Do I have more to say on this issue? Yes, I do, but I would like it to be a dialogue. If you have any comments please feel free to exercise your freedom of speech rights.
Photo courtesy of hive and mellowbox
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