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When a non-compliant patient publicly blames their doctor

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Defamation

Working as a physician is one of the most stressful jobs possible. Every choice a medical doctor makes could have life-altering implications for their patients. They need to monitor each patient in their care closely and remain up to date on cutting-edge treatments and other developments in their area of expertise.

As if that were not difficult enough, physicians also need to fight against human nature. The average patient may struggle to fully comply with a physician’s recommendations. They may not take medication on a schedule as they should. They may blatantly lie, claiming they have done physical therapy exercises at home while continuing to lose range of motion in a recently-replaced joint.

Unfortunately, some patients who do not comply with medical instructions blame their doctor for their poor outcomes. They might make public statements about the situation or accuse them of medical malpractice. What rights does a physician have when facing unfair blame for a patient’s outcome?

Lying about the situation could constitute defamation

No one wants to admit to their family or employer that the reason they need help getting out of the car every time they drive somewhere is that they won’t commit to five minutes of exercise twice a day. Instead, they may blame the professionals overseeing their care.

Some people even begin to believe their own lies. They might leave reviews on social media or other online platforms. In more extreme cases, they may file a medical malpractice lawsuit asking for financial compensation for the impact of their own choices and failures. Such actions could cause irreversible damage to a doctor’s reputation and their career. Not only does a physician need to respond to the malpractice claim, but they may need to take action over the defamation that they experienced.

Someone who is publicly lying about a medical professional’s capabilities could constitute defamation. When someone tries to place the blame for the poor outcome of their treatment, which was a result of their own non-compliance, on a doctor, the physician could potentially fight back.

Defamation cases involving medical professionals can be particularly difficult to navigate, as someone’s first impulse to defend themselves could lead to unintentional violations of medical privacy laws. Physicians, therefore, need to be very cautious about how they handle defamation coming from a dissatisfied patient. Seeking legal guidance is ultimately wise.