18

I predict that one of the major criticisms of the site will be that bad medical information was provided, which could even open up the site to litigation. Might it be a good idea to have something very clear along the top of the site, along the lines of Reddit's disclaimer, to indicate that this advice is no replacement for that of a qualified physician?

  • See also this related discussion – Patrick Hoefler Apr 1 '15 at 11:38
  • 1
    Do you actually mean having a persistent disclaimer at the top of the site? Or do mean having a disclaimer in the user agreement as in the Reddit link you provided? – Garrett Apr 4 '15 at 6:07
  • I'd rather not have a disclaimer just because it's annoying and ugly. But if a disclaimer is eventually put up, I would suggest that it only be shown to US users (or users with IP addresses in the US). The litigation problem is very largely a US-centric concern. I am not aware of any other country on earth where litigation would be an automatic concern. – Kenny LJ Apr 4 '15 at 14:45
  • Yeah, in the UK litigation is highly unlikely. I don't think anyone would have a case over following internet advice. Because of that, I downvoted I think this is unnecessary. – Tim Apr 6 '15 at 11:02
  • I think users who aren't logged in should definitely see a persistent disclaimer. We should probably retain that disclaimer for users up to a certain reputation point (500?) when we can be certain that they've at least seen it enough that they should know better, even if we can't force them to read it. – Brian Apr 8 '15 at 15:55
10

A disclaimer doesn't solve the actual issue. Any reasonable person should know that they shouldn't trust the internet for medical advice. And anyone else won't read the disclaimer anyway.

If the question of a user indicates in some way that it might be a serious condition, any answer should recommend visiting a doctor anyway. This might only be marginally more effective than a general disclaimer, but I still have a slight hope that a personalized disclaimer has a slightly better chance of working than just having a generic banner somewhere.

These disclaimers are usually added for legal reasons, not because they are useful. If the SE laywers consider such a disclaimer necessary, they'll add it. Otherwise I don't really see the need for it.

  • 1
    Ah, it's also a heads up, it's not only legal. It is a way to tell the users we are conscious of that, and that we are not going to try to do a kind of junk remote medicine. – Shlublu Apr 3 '15 at 8:04
  • 2
    FWIW, I responded to some of the issues brought up in this answer here. – Susan Apr 3 '15 at 8:11
  • 2
    +1. Also keep in mind that Health SE is not first site on the internet dispensing medical advice. To get some examples, I searched Google for "Why do I have a lump on my neck?". The first 5 sites did not have a disclaimer except for a disclaimer link in their site map at the bottom and except for WebMD which had in very small font at very bottom of the page "WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment". And indeed, all 5 sites recommended consulting a medical professional. – Garrett Apr 4 '15 at 6:22
  • Lawyers add disclaimers like that as a defense in case of a lawsuit. That doesn't mean we can't make an effort to help users understand something, which would also help prevent lawsuits from happening in the first place. – Brian Apr 8 '15 at 15:58
7

I really like this idea. Most of the people on this site will probably not be very qualified to give out medical advice, even if they do give very good advice and information. I personally am not qualified to have any medical job, but I come from a family of nurses, so I have always been interested. But I certainly don't people taking my advice over a certified physician's. Reddit's medical disclaimer is very good, so I think we should have something very similar.

  • 4
    Additionally, even if you do give out "good" advice, it's not like all people will respond the same way to the same treatment. – Eric Mar 31 '15 at 20:37
5

This would not only be useful to Health.SE -- it would be useful for other sites as well. That said, it was actually requested on MSE 3.5 years ago: Wanted: A standard way for a site to have a prominent professional advice disclaimer

There has been no update on it since then.

2

No.

I am very disappointed and appalled that Health.SE and Law.SE have recently put up these disclaimers:

enter image description here

These disclaimers continue to perpetuate the myth that there is something special about health and law; that when it comes to these two specific spheres of human life, there is somehow a priesthood of experts who have a monopoly over the truth; that those who have not spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars and years on medical or law school are not allowed to speak.

I think one of the goals of Health.SE or Law.SE (or any other SE site) was to prove that you could get useful information and advice on the internet for free, instead of forking out wads of money to a "qualified professional". These disclaimers tend to perpetuate the myth that when it comes to health or law, mere internet sites cannot possibly be that useful after all; if you want useful advice, you must still pay big-time money for "qualified advice" from a "professional".

In most other countries, the freedom to express your views and give advice about health or law is no less than the freedom to do likewise for say travel or sports. It is primarily in the USA that people have been conditioned by excessive litigation to be very fearful of expressing their views about health or law.

Why, may I ask, is there not a similar disclaimer on Travel.SE that looks like this:

Travel Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified travel agent.

After all, traveling can be every bit as hazardous as any health or legal issue. Go to the wrong place and you might be raped and murdered. Go to the wrong country and you may be kidnapped or wrongfully imprisoned. Such a disclaimer on Travel.SE may seem to the American more absurd than a disclaimer on Health.SE or Law.SE---but only because, I believe, Americans have been conditioned by excessive litigation to be fearful of giving medical or legal advice.

But to most people from the rest of the world, such a disclaimer on Travel.SE is no more absurd than similar disclaimers on Health.SE or Law.SE.

I must therefore strongly insist on either of the following options:

  • Have NO disclaimers on any Stack Exchange sites whatsoever OR put up such disclaimers across ALL Stack Exchange sites.

We should absolutely insist that there is nothing special about Health or Law, as compared to say Travel or any other human endeavor. When someone on the internet dispenses advice about health or law, I know to take it with a pinch of salt, just as when he dispenses travel advice.

  • Alternatively, if the American fear of litigation is the key motivation for such disclaimers, then display these Health and Law disclaimers only to users with US IP addresses.

People from the rest of the world should not be subject to the same fear and intimidation that Americans are accustomed to, when it comes to health and law.

P.S. If there are other countries in the world where health and law similarly occupy a privileged position, I apologize. But AFAIK, this is a uniquely American phenomenon.

0

Maybe a link to Terms and Services or the Help Center will work . 1+ Because I do think it is necessary, we should just make it not to obvious, Maybe a reference to a link and a brief statement. Like: "This content does not replace medical attention. For all emergencies, second opinions, Diagnosis, etc seek the appropriate medical resources."


I predict that one of the major criticisms of the site will be that bad medical information was provided, which could even open up the site to litigation.

  • Good prediction. But the advice will always be"bad", because odds are they are not coming from a medical doctor. The only thing that we can do is try to raise quality and promote adding research to post. Also, having rules that guard against low quality post.

Might it be a good idea to have something very clear along the top of the site, along the lines of Reddit's disclaimer, to indicate that this advice is no replacement for that of a qualified physician?

Yep. My opinion on that is above.

  • 1
    -1: I disagree with having something along the top. See my comment under Mad Scientist's answer. – Garrett Apr 4 '15 at 6:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .