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Simply put, I believe that while good intentioned, the “no personal medical advice” rule is doing more harm than good.

You have to remember that people come here from Google. If SE isn’t answering these questions, they’ll keep going on through Google until they find something that seems to fit - and in so doing, they’ll get the advice that you refused to provide. The link given has an example of someone asking about fatigue and then suffering serious consequences because they drank a lot of water and exercised - now consider for a moment that that patient is likely coming here from Googling “fatigue low energy” or something, and if they don’t get an answer, they’ll go to the next site on the list - which might give the exact same harmful generic advice that you’re concerned about, or it might give pseudoscience “alternative medicine” advice that actively harms them in other ways.

By contrast, if Answers for these questions are given here, then we can be sure that they are high quality answers given by medical professionals - even if they might not be as good as an in-person examination, then they’re still better than going onto the next site that may just be a medical listicle and not consider their personal circumstances at all. Additionally, while the patient may not give a full accounting of their medical history, that’s what the comments are for - to ask questions for additional information that can help produce a higher quality answer. If someone posts “I have a lot of fatigue” without enough detail, then you should use the comments to ask them “Do you have conditions X, Y, or Z”?

As a result of these factors, I believe that the current policy is counterproductive to patient health and should be changed. Instead of the current policy, I would suggest adding a note in the sidebar that says something like “This site is not a replacement for seeing your doctor”, and maybe putting a banner on personal medical advice questions that advises people who find them through Google to consider if it matches their circumstances- and to ask a question of their own if it doesn’t.

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    "By contrast, if Answers for these questions are given here, then we can be sure that they are high quality answers given by medical professionals" -- How so? There are several high-rep users here I believe to be licensed physicians, but I have absolutely no way of verifying that. They could be brilliant 14 year olds for all I know. Stackexchange doesn't guarantee credentials. It only provides upvotes and downvotes. – Carey Gregory Mar 26 at 6:27
  • @CareyGregory Because the entire point of Stack Exchange is for experts in a field to provide answers - and while you can't verify their medical certification, you can verify their Reputation score and the Answers they've given in the past. If you're not even going to trust that experts are experts, what's the point of having this SE site in the first place? – nick012000 Mar 26 at 6:35
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    @nick012000 - You can't guarantee that anyone on any site is actually an expert, or just someone really good with google. That's why the voting system exists. You could say the same statement about any SE site, "how do I know you know what you're talking about?" – JohnP Mar 26 at 19:31
  • @JohnP You know that they know what they're talking about because of their Reputation score. That's the entire point of it: the verification of expertise on that topic. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 1:29
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    @nick012000 Reputation is mostly just correlated with the number of questions you answer. It helps filter some of the junk answers but does not identify experts; it definitely does not identify MDs. At least several of the top-20 rep users here are definitely not MDs, myself included. – Bryan Krause Mar 27 at 14:59
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    What @BryanKrause said. I am a top rep user, and my highest level of medical schooling was paramedic out of an ER for the USAF. – JohnP Mar 27 at 16:00
  • While not perfect perhaps there’s a way individuals could post their StackExchange user ID in their Doximity profile. – Henry Wei Apr 5 at 17:12
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By contrast, if Answers for these questions are given here, then we can be sure that they are high quality answers given by medical professionals

Oh? How would we be sure? There are several high-rep users here I believe to be licensed physicians, but I have absolutely no way of verifying that. They could be brilliant 14-year olds for all I know. Even if they provided us with their name, links to their licensing credentials, etc, they could still be a brilliant 14-year old impersonating a real doctor.

Stackexchange doesn't guarantee credentials. It only provides upvotes and downvotes.

I am not in favor of allowing brilliant 14-year olds to provide medical advice for the reasons that DoctorWhom elucidated in this canonical answer.

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  • You did not address the main point of my post: if these questions are not answered on SE where there is quality control, they will be answered by the next site the person finds on Google instead. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 0:32
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    Yes, and that's exactly my point. Choosing inaction is also choosing an action. Would you rather get their information somewhere where you can control its quality, or somewhere you can't? Which one leads to better patient outcomes? – nick012000 Mar 27 at 1:07
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    @nick012000 I don't know, but I would prefer to be a source of no information rather than bad information. – Carey Gregory Mar 27 at 1:15
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    My point is that by being a source of no information, you become a source of bad information, de facto, because they'll go onto the next site on Google instead. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 1:21
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    No, sorry, I'm not accepting blame for what people find and believe on the internet. – Carey Gregory Mar 27 at 1:26
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    When you're running a site like this, you should. It's an ethical obligation that comes along with your moderator diamond. That's why SE's answer rules involve making sure that they're useful for other people - because people will find them years from now with Google searches. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 1:28
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    Oh come on, there is no ethical obligation what so ever for volunteers to do anything. People are so happy to oblige others to do things free for them. The sense of entitlement is overwhelming. – Graham Chiu Mar 27 at 3:30
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    @nick012000 If you think I have an ethical obligation to allow all questions you deem fit because I agreed to volunteer as a moderator then I think you should contact the CM team and volunteer to help me. – Carey Gregory Mar 27 at 4:12
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    @CareyGregory If it'll get this policy overturned, sure, I'll nominate myself for the next set of elections. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 5:30
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    @GrahamChiu That is completely untrue. When you volunteer for a position, you assume the ethical responsibilities of that position - for instance, if you're volunteering as a Sunday School teacher at a church, you're bound by a number of ethical responsibilities regarding the wellbeing of the children in your care. – nick012000 Mar 27 at 5:32
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    It seems you don't understand that moderators don't set rules. The community sets rules. You won't be able to change those rules once you become a moderator. You can only enforce the rules the community has agreed upon. – Carey Gregory Mar 27 at 5:40
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    of the top 4 ranked users here only one is a physician, and is no longer active on this site. the top ranked user studies nutrients. You @nick012000 have no idea what is happening on this site. – Graham Chiu Mar 27 at 6:01
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    @CareyGregory Hence this question to try to change them - and you're omitting a possible means for the rules to change: SE corporate ordering you to do so (and they might, if those rules are going against their policies or goals, which I suspect might be happening here). – nick012000 Mar 27 at 6:04
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    @nick012000 LOL, okay, we're done here. You go ahead and get SE corporate to change things. – Carey Gregory Mar 27 at 6:07
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    This site was set up specifically excluding personal medical advice as one of its prime directives. If this were to happen we'd be overwhelmed with bad advice again about magic water and whatever, and we'd be snowed under deleting answers etc. You have zero idea of what this site has been through and display an ugly arrogance to boot. – Graham Chiu Mar 27 at 8:56

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