The media recently highlighted this question when hospital administration fired a physician out of Arizona from her position at Phoenix Children’s Hospital after making anti-Semitic statements on her Instagram page. The posts disparaged the state of Israel, calling it a state of “inhumanity, racism and cannibalism” and stating its “end is coming sooner than you think.”
Hospital administration looked into the comments after the public voiced concerns about her ability to treat Jewish children. The physician countered the attack, stating her comments were part of a hashtag campaign and taken out of context. She has pointed to her history as a civil rights advocate to help provide a better understanding of her character. Leadership within the hospital put the physician on leave while it considered the matter and ultimately chose to terminate her contract. She is now suing for wrongful termination.
In addition to losing her job, there is the possibility of even greater consequences. The physician’s actions could result in an investigation by the state medical board. Most state medical boards expect their physicians to treat patients equally. Allegations of discriminatory treatment can result in concerns of unethical behavior — potentially resulting in disciplinary action. Depending on the severity of the allegations, these disciplinary measures could include suspension or even revocation of the physician’s medical license.
Which brings us back to our original question: can a physician lose their medical license for using social media? Although use of social media alone is unlikely to cause problems, it is important to realize that social media is very much like a fishbowl. Anything posted could be accessed by almost anyone in the public. As a result, it is wise for physicians to use social media wisely. Comments are noticed, the public is watching and is often not afraid to report behavior that it may not agree with. Physicians who choose to use social media should make sure their posts are within the confines of the rules of the state medical board. If questioned, take the matter seriously. If it appears the questions could led to an investigation, physicians are wise to act to protect their interests.