First of all, what exactly is Health.SE's stand on personal diagnosis? How is it defined? Example:

What can cause pimples?

The OP might have pimples and is trying to find the correlating cause (I.e. Acne). It might also just be a question to get a basic understanding how pimples work. Who and how to decide which is the case?

Secondly, how is one to respond to personal diagnosis? Lately, quite a few of it seems to happen and users (including me) answer the questions. Should we not answer them to stop the spread of this problem, and instead vote to close as off-topic (note that many might not have the necessary reputation and can only flag, which is a lengthy process)?

Lastly, I have also experienced down-voting happening to answers regarding what some consider personal diagnosis. Is it okay to down-vote answers to tell the user that this is an off-topic question and should not be answered, or should the "punishment" only appeal to OP's?

UPDATE: As for the first part of my question, I've found a possible solution: Every question where the answer includes "see the doctor of your choice" is personal. Is this standard practice here?
What do we do with personal questions though? Delete them? Close them? Currently, nothing happens at all.

1 Answer 1


From the help centre:

If your question is requesting personal medical advice, it is off-topic and instead should be directed to your personal physician.

So yes, if the answer to the question is "see the doctor" the question is asking for personal medical advice. It is a common practice on health SE to treat it as such. Since personal medical advice is strictly off-topic here, such questions:

  • Should not be answered
  • Should be closed

Please, don't answer such questions. Not only are you encouraging more of them by answering, but you can cause harm to the OP.

Personally, if I see an answer to an off-topic question I would leave a comment explaining why the question shouldn't be answered. But I can understand the downvotes, especially for someone who is not a new user or if the behaviour is repeated. A rule of thumb: if in doubt if a question is about personal medical advice (and you lean towards that it isn't and don't want to flag it) - don't answer. Wait for a while and see if it gets closed. Or ask here on meta.

As for who decides if a question is off-topic - the community. Once you flag it it takes five votes from members with sufficient rep to close it. It sometimes takes time, but the same model is applied all across SE.

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