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When is Facebook use in the hospital cause for a lawsuit?

Social media use can result in litigation. Two specific instances that can result in legal woes for physicians and other medical professionals include issues of negligence or defamation.

Scenario #1: Negligence.

A physician or other medical professional could find him or herself the subject of a medical malpractice suit based on Facebook use if used within the hospital and use led to distraction.

If distraction results in a missed diagnosis or error during a procedure, a patient could claim this distraction was a contributing factor to the injury.

Scenario #2: Defamation.

It is not uncommon for a hospital or physician to file a suit against individuals for defamation based on social media post present on Facebook.

A case out Michigan provides an example. In this case, a hospital is suing three individuals for Facebook posts that were allegedly an invasion of privacy, defamatory and resulted in tortious interference. The individuals were not allowed to visit their grandmother after they verbally abused hospital employees and withheld meals from their grandmother. In response, the women posted negative comments about the hospital on Facebook — comments that went viral. The hospital has filed suit against the women.

Moral: Use wisely

Social media is a part of our culture. Although it may not be possible to push medical doctors to refrain from using social media to help protect their professional interests, it is imperative that those who chose to use sites like Facebook do so wisely. Reduce the risk of legal woes surrounding social media by refraining from using it in the office and avoiding comments about patients.

If a social media dispute arises, take actions to protect your rights. If it appears the dispute will impact your profession, contact legal counsel.

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