Future Doctors on Facebook

The Florida Palm Beach Post writes an article on the risks for current and future doctors associated with posting revealing information on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The article states that there is “something unsettling when you learn your doctor was a hero at ‘keg stands’ or a member of ‘Physicians looking for trophy wives in training.’”
I don’t really agree. I don’t think people are appalled to learn that someone drank alcohol in graduate school or are unnerved by membership in Physicians looking for trophy wives in training.” (As to the latter, this is why many nerdy guys go to medical school in the first place. If they can earn these spoils, more power to them.)
Bizarrely, the University of Florida actually did a study that – more bizarrely – that was published in Journal of General Internal Medicine. The authors examined the Facebook pages of 362 medical students and found information that some faculty members believe is inappropriate for future doctors.

Sports fans know that this time a year is slow for interesting sports development which is why helicopters are flying over Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Brett Farve’s house monitoring his every move as he considers a comeback. Does medicine have slow months in the summer as well? Couldn’t the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a heavyweight in medical literature, find something a little more important to publish about this month?
But the most troubling part of the article I think was a comment attributed to co-author Lindsay Acheson Thompson, an assistant professor of general pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine that if a doctor gets sued for medical malpractice, a drunken Facebook photo from a college frat party could be used as evidence of a drinking problem, even if there is none.

There is not a court in the country that would admit such evidence. And the suggestion that this is a risk makes a mockery of civil justice in medical malpractice cases.

In an unrelated article on social networking sites, Karen Barth Menzies, a very well respected California lawyer who has had a lot of success in pharmaceutical cases, write an interesting article in Trial, the AAJ journal, about the perils and possibilities of online social networks.