Doctors and their arrogance! They make you sit in the waiting room half-an-hour past your appointment time, treat your complaints with condescension, charge you $200 dollars to tell you you have the flu and there’s nothing they can do for you, then rush you out of the office before you can ask about that throbbing pain in your duodenum.
Now, they want to deprive you of your First Amendment Rights!
Unnerved by internet websites that rate physicians, some doctors are forcing patients to sign waivers preventing patients from criticizing them. If a patient refuses to sign the agreement the doctor could turn the patient away.
John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs.com, said that in recent months, six doctors have asked him to remove negative online comments based on patients' signed waivers. He has refused. Kudos to Mr. Swapceinski!
"They're basically forcing the patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment rights, and I really find that repulsive," Swapceinski said.
He said he's planning to post a "Wall of Shame" listing names of doctors who use patient waivers.
RateMds’ postings are anonymous, and the site's operators say they do not know their users' identities. The operators also won't remove negative comments.
Medical Justice, is a physicians’ service based in Greensboro, N.C. For a fee, it provides doctors with a standardized waiver agreement. Patients who sign agree not to post online comments about the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment." Doctors who sign up for Medical Justice’s service are notified when a negative rating appears on a website, and, if the author's name is known, physicians can use the signed waivers to get the sites to remove offending opinion.
Jeffrey Segal, of Medical Justice, said the waivers are aimed more at giving doctors ammunition against websites than against patients. Still, the company's suggested wording warns that breaching the agreement could result in legal action against patients.
Attorney Jim Speta, a Northwestern University Internet law specialist, questioned whether such lawsuits would have much success.
"Courts might say the balance of power between doctors and patients is very uneven" and that patients should be able to give feedback on their doctors' performance, Speta said.
Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, said her company surveyed more than 1,000 of its consumer members last month, and most said they had never been presented with a waiver; only 3% said they would sign one.
About 6,000 doctors reviewed on the Angie's List site also were asked to comment. Only 74 responded, and about a fifth of them said they would consider using them.
Angie's List's operators do know the identities of users and warn them when they register that the site will share names with doctors if asked.
Lenore Janecek, who formed a Chicago-based patient-advocacy group after being wrongly diagnosed with cancer, said she opposes the waivers.
"Everyone has the right to speak up," she said.
While she's never posted comments about her doctors, she said the sites are one of the few resources patients have to evaluate physicians.