In a short exchange between @anongoodnurse and myself, it was mentioned that

This site will never meet high expectations; it's a terrible fit with the SE network, and has been from the beginning

There are times I see this site working, and then we get a downturn for a while due to lots of personal medical advice (PMA) questions. In a sense, that will be a problem inherent with a site like this, I think, as it is open to laypeople.

My question here is what should we do to try to improve the situation? The disclaimer we have on the site seems to be ignored. The fact that we have already closed PMA questions recently does not seem to deter the situation. Maybe that is because of the number coming in before they get closed, I don't know. (Devil's Advocate)

We get the same problem in Psychology & Neuroscience with the odd personal advice question, but it doesn't seem to be anywhere near the level it is here. Maybe it is because there are a lot of TV doctors etc. raising awareness for certain conditions, etc. Maybe it is due to some other reason.

One point is that there was a time recently, where the whole first page of questions in the active list were all PMA questions that were rightfully closed.

Seeing this is going to be off-putting to anyone who comes here, let alone any medically trained people, looking for a good science Q&A site, which we hope this site can be.

As demonstrated by looking at the discussion in Can my post be reopened now? on the history of Deriving life expectancy from FLIPI index data for FLIPI(3) High Risk since it was reopened and migrated, such questions can very rarely be successful in being edited to be completely free of the original intent of the question.

So, should PMA questions just be deleted? Should they be deleted after, say, 24 hours?

One issue with leaving them for 24 hours is that they are still sitting there in deterent of not just more PMA questions, but the professionals we need to attract to get this site working as it should, with answers provided relatively quickly instead of good questions stagnating due to lack of knowledge within a community who try their hardest to help as much as possible.

Having said that,

  • The 24 hours can be used to look at a PMA question to see if it is one of those extremely rare ones that could be completely generalised and made no longer the personal medical advice originally sought.
  • The edited question can then provide some useful information to trained medical professionals as well as laypeople on the subject put forward.
  • If anyone wanted to take the subject on, they could even post it as their own question and gain the rep points for it. This turns the situation around.
  • Deleting PMA questions will declutter the site and leave us with the questions that benefit everyone and stops and disincentive for professionals joining in.

Where do we go from here?

  • "The 24 hours can be used to look at a PMA question to see if it is one of those extremely rare ones that could be completely generalised and made no longer the personal medical advice originally sought." There are many PMA questions that can be edited into an acceptable question about medicine. I used to do this myself. I don't know why more people didn't/don't do it; maybe because they don't know how (just a guess), or maybe it's too much work. Some, though, are just too trivial. Feb 28, 2022 at 7:06
  • This question seems to be all about PMA, but the title is more general. I'd recommend asking one question specifically about PMA (for example this one), and then asking about "what is needed for this site to work" separately, since PMA questions are not the only problem. Feb 28, 2022 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


One idea I just thought of is that when a PMA question is closed, its title should be changed to have [Closed as Personal Medical Advice] at the beginning so it is plain to see for others that PMA questions will be closed so don't bother to ask them.

To add to that, we could then immediately delete all but 1 PMA question as housekeeping so the board is not clogged and professionals new to the site are not disincentivised while PMA questions are.

  • 1
    I think deleting questions as soon as possible is a good option. Regular users could participate too, if we actually downvote them.
    – Ian Campbell Mod
    Feb 28, 2022 at 14:48
  • I don't agree with the way we've been treating PMAQs here, but I think that adding [Closed as personal medical advice] to the titles of such questions, would send a strong signal to new users that they shouldn't ask PMAQs. This would probably solve a lot of the problems this site has (though may create new ones). I think a better way to discourage PMAQs would be for there to be a pop-up before a user tries to type their question (similar to the pop-up you get when you try to answer your own question) warning them about PMAQs but I'm not sure SE would do that. Feb 28, 2022 at 16:16
  • @user1271772 - why not add an answer suggesting the pop-up with details on how you think this should work. Then community voting will indicate the general feeling on it. Personally, I think it may help, but it probably would only add another ignored element on a page already peppered with "do not ask for personal medical advice" notices. Mar 1, 2022 at 5:56
  • @ChrisRogers yes, depending on the implementation, a pop-up can he ignored. If implemented well, it will likely work. However the reason I didn't write an answer is because I have a different opinion about PMAQ. I'm active on Law SE where personal legal advice is not allowed, but we deal with it differently. I have done over 150 close vote reviews on Law SE and most of them are for personal legal advice questions. I think you should change the title though of this Q. I would answer a question about what this site needs, that's not about PMAQ. Mar 1, 2022 at 14:29
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    I like the idea but I'm skeptical that people who ask PMA questions read a single thing before posting. They're almost always 1 or 101 rep users who clearly didn't read the (ridiculous) disclaimer in the sidebar (I blame SE attorneys for screwing us on that. All we asked for was a bold NO PERSONAL MEDICAL ADVICE notice, not 50 pages of legalese no one will read.)
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Mar 2, 2022 at 2:23
  • @CareyGregory - I was a mod then, as was Susan. It was pretty much exactly what we asked for. Mar 3, 2022 at 7:18
  • @anongoodnurse No, the current sidebar is fairly new, like within the last 12 months. It used to be much shorter and less legalese.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 14:57
  • @anongoodnurse I just checked the chat room and the revised sidebar was implemented on 20 Oct 2021. We asked for a one-sentence sidebar but what the SE lawyers gave us is what you see today.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 16:03
  • @CareyGregory - Oh, I'm sorry, I should have checked. I just presumed (obviously). Gotta stop doing that. Off to read the sidebar now... :/ Mar 3, 2022 at 17:28
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    @CareyGregory Worse than being long, it doesn't even say that personal medical advice isn't allowed here; it reads mostly like a warning not to share private information, which I'm not surprised people take to mean that merely it's their own fault if people see the private stuff they post, which isn't at all our concern here (or at least a minor concern), just SE legal's. It says "not a substitute for medical advice" which is a pretty standard style of disclaimer on sites that explicitly do allow for advice questions, to avoid liability for the advice given.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 18:21
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    @BryanKrause Yep, It accomplishes absolutely nothing for the site . I complained about it when they first showed it to us but they weren't willing to change it.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:34
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    @CareyGregory - Oh my word, what a worse than useless sidebar that is... It is all and only about SE's risk. At least the previous one was useful. I wonder what made them change it. Do you know? Mar 3, 2022 at 23:19
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    @anongoodnurse We asked them to. We asked for a simple, short message telling people that medical advice questions weren't allowed and would be closed. I mean literally one sentence. I guess the CM team took it to the legal department and this is the result. This is what happens when you take anything to a corporate legal department.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Mar 4, 2022 at 0:49

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