In Memorandum

Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

The medical blogosphere lost two important voices this week. FatDoctor was forced to shut down her blog due to privacy concerns. Flea’s blog mysteriously vanished. Given that he has been blogging about his malpractice trial, it’s likely that his blog also was taken down because of privacy issues. Hopefully, we’ll see his blog reappear when the litigation has finished.

Val over at Revolution Health suggests that it may be time for:

… us medical bloggers to create and adhere to a code of conduct to protect ourselves and our patients from harm.

I’ve written about a code of conduct for healthcare bloggers previously, although I was focusing more on the issues of reliability and credibility. Perhaps it is time to look to a healthcare code of conduct, one that protects both the author and the reader.

Kevin over at Kevin MD calls today “Black Wednesday: A dark day for the medical blogosphere”. He points out that:

“With blogs being at the forefront of the Web 2.0 advance, traditional medical institutions are again slow to adapt to the openness that defines the heart of the blogosphere.”

“Traditional medical institutions are either ignorant of, or not ready for, the blogging physician or the blogging health professional.”

Both Kevin and Val point to a recent USA Today article that discusses health blogs and patient privacy. The article raises two important questions:

“Should we all worry that our doctors are blogging about us “” and potentially violating our privacy?”

“Can you trust the medical information in these blogs “” especially those written anonymously?”

The problem I see is that these two issues are counter to one another. If readers expect doctors to fictionalize patient information for privacy concerns, how then can they expect to trust the medical information in those blogs?

About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.


  1. Let’s keep the great dialogue going, Walter. I think that parables are a legitimate teaching tool – and that doctors should indeed fictionalize their patient stories if they’re going to write about them publicly. Trust should not be based on historical accuracy, but on the credentials of the author and the wisdom of his/her writing.

  2. I agree with you 100% Val.

    What I’m referring to when I talk about trust is justifiability and attribution of “factual information” … that is, documentation of references and source citation.

    I believe you’re referring to trust differently; trusting the lesson or message being taught through the parable. And on that point, I have similar feelings as you: author credentials, experience and writing wisdom are a basis for trust.

    The HONcode includes principles for privacy, attribution and justifiability. However, the HONcode is designed primarily to protect the reader. Given recent events, a healthcare blogger code should also include principles to protect the author. Can a code offer something like that? I don’t know, but as a community, we need to define those protections.

  3. It’s not just the medical community that lost another good Doctor. Flea was a great clarifying and demystifying tour de force for parents as well.

    I am sad to see him go.