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Defamation

Abstract
A 33-year old female underwent elective breast augmentation and botulinum toxin injections 2 weeks ago. After the dressing came off, she was not satisfied with the result. The surgeon had told her she had to wait until the swelling and edema subsided, only then would she see the cosmetic benefits. The patient went on social media and posted negative reviews about the surgeon. She claimed she had suffered major complications from the breast augmentation and that the surgeon ignored her. She suggested that other patients not visit this surgeon for cosmetic surgery because he was reluctant to see her after the surgery. Her opinion was that the surgeon was not skilled and incompetent. The surgeon came across the review on Yelp and filed a lawsuit for defamation. In court, the surgeon had the appointment book, pre- and post-surgery photos and all the communications between himself and the patient. The surgeon claimed in court that he never neglected the patient, asked her to follow up and wait for the swelling to subside before she would see the cosmetic result. She instead defamed him on social media, and the jury sided with him. The surgeon also claimed that this false statement about him has resulted in a decline in new patients seeking surgery. The patient lost the lawsuit and ended up paying the surgeon over $300,000 in damages. Introduction People can write or say anything on the internet, and defamation cases are on the rise. One key reason is that lawyers and potential litigants are aware of the amount of money awarded by the court system. In several recent cases, litigants have been awarded millions of dollars because of defamation, and it is expected that this will continue. Since defamation immediately downgrades one’s reputation, which can quickly result in a loss of income, these cases are heard by the court system without much delay.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] A cosmetic surgeon learns that someone has anonymously been posting negative reviews online. The review suggests this cosmetic surgeon is a bad surgeon with deceptive practice, never follows up with patients, cut corners in surgery that result in many complications for the patient. This defamation can have a tragic consequence and can quickly ruin the professional’s name and character; furthermore, it can lead to a drop in the surgeon's business. In time, the surgeon notes that patient numbers are declining and income is dropping. Consequently, the surgeon may have to change his or her practice. However, if these reviews are untrue, then the surgeon can file suit for defamation. In court, the surgeon must prove that none of the alleged complaints are true. They can do this by providing facts, which can include patient reviews, show how they manage their clinical practice, and present complication rates. They can present testimonials from many patients who are satisfied with their surgery. This seems simple, but it requires an enormous amount of time and money to fight defamation cases. What is defamation? Defamation usually involves publication, without any justification, of a derogatory and/or false statement regarding another individual or party. Defamation may either be slander or libel. Libel is a defamatory statement in writing or other visible forms; whereas, slander is a spoken defamatory statement.[8] A defamatory statement has the potential to injure the reputation of another individual, which may lower the opinion of the affected person in society; and this may result in him or her being disliked, hated, ridiculed, feared, or scorned. In most cases, the defamed person will almost always claim that it resulted in a loss of income. Defamation was not historically considered to be a big issue in the healthcare industry. However,  social media has resulted in an increase in defamation cases. Healthcare workers who post or make negative comments about other patients/healthcare workers can face serious legal action.  There have already been many reported cases involving health care professionals in which allegations of defamation have been raised. This article presents several cases of defamation in the healthcare industry to demonstrate potential risk areas during communication. After a nurse resigned, her supervising manager wrote defamatory statements in a letter of reference. She mentioned that the nurse was unstable. The nurse could not get another job, but when she found out what the letter of reference had stated, she filed suit. She did not have a history of mental illness. She wanted a part-time job so that she could look after her mother, who was ill. A parent was questioned about suspected sexual abuse and one of the nurses, thinking that the parent would not hear, remarked that the father looked like an abuser. The parent went to a lawyer, and the nurse was charged with defamation of character and HIPPA violation. The child had not been sexually abused. During an internal hospital review, a nurse made negative remarks about 2 of her colleagues claiming that they were most likely stealing leftover medications. The colleagues filed a lawsuit claiming defamation of character. The hospital settled out of court. There was no evidence that any medication had ever been reported stolen. A doctor was wrongfully dismissed, and the employer stated that the doctor had committed malicious acts. The doctor filed a wrongful dismissal and defamation of character lawsuit. The hospital had to rehire the doctor and settle for an undisclosed amount. The person in human resources who made the information public was fired. A manager called in a nurse and berated her for releasing patient information to her colleagues, an allegation that was false. The manager claimed that the nurse was untrustworthy and unreliable. The nurse filed a lawsuit for defamation of character. It was later proven that another co-worker had released the patient information. The manager was assigned another position. A nurse educator commented to her colleagues that one of the nursing students was lazy and cheating in the exams. The information was hearsay, and the student filed a lawsuit against the nursing instructor and was awarded a lump sum. The nursing manager was assigned other duties. A senior surgeon wrote up a surgery resident for being negligent during the care of the patient, and said that the resident was unfit to be a surgeon. The surgery resident filed suit that his character was defamed and that there was no evidence to substantiate what the surgeon had written. The case went to trial, and the resident won. The court was told that a complication had occurred during surgery, but the surgeon was present at all times and it was he who controlled the events in the operating room. The hospital and the surgeon had to pay a huge penalty and court fees. The resident completed his training; the surgeon’s privileges were curtailed. Although it may seem that it takes time and money to fight these defamation charges; however, a healthcare professional's reputation is often the most valuable asset they have.

Publisher

StatPearls Publishing
Treasure Island (FL)

Language

eng

PubMed ID

30285367

Citation

Gossman WG, Varacallo M: Defamation.StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, 2019, Treasure Island (FL).
Gossman WG, Varacallo M. Defamation. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019.
Gossman WG & Varacallo M. (2019). Defamation. In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing;
Gossman WG, Varacallo M. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - CHAP T1 - Defamation BT - StatPearls A1 - Gossman,William G., AU - Varacallo,Matthew, Y1 - 2019/01// PY - 2018/10/5/pubmed PY - 2018/10/5/medline PY - 2018/10/5/entrez N2 - A 33-year old female underwent elective breast augmentation and botulinum toxin injections 2 weeks ago. After the dressing came off, she was not satisfied with the result. The surgeon had told her she had to wait until the swelling and edema subsided, only then would she see the cosmetic benefits. The patient went on social media and posted negative reviews about the surgeon. She claimed she had suffered major complications from the breast augmentation and that the surgeon ignored her. She suggested that other patients not visit this surgeon for cosmetic surgery because he was reluctant to see her after the surgery. Her opinion was that the surgeon was not skilled and incompetent. The surgeon came across the review on Yelp and filed a lawsuit for defamation. In court, the surgeon had the appointment book, pre- and post-surgery photos and all the communications between himself and the patient. The surgeon claimed in court that he never neglected the patient, asked her to follow up and wait for the swelling to subside before she would see the cosmetic result. She instead defamed him on social media, and the jury sided with him. The surgeon also claimed that this false statement about him has resulted in a decline in new patients seeking surgery. The patient lost the lawsuit and ended up paying the surgeon over $300,000 in damages. Introduction People can write or say anything on the internet, and defamation cases are on the rise. One key reason is that lawyers and potential litigants are aware of the amount of money awarded by the court system. In several recent cases, litigants have been awarded millions of dollars because of defamation, and it is expected that this will continue. Since defamation immediately downgrades one’s reputation, which can quickly result in a loss of income, these cases are heard by the court system without much delay.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] A cosmetic surgeon learns that someone has anonymously been posting negative reviews online. The review suggests this cosmetic surgeon is a bad surgeon with deceptive practice, never follows up with patients, cut corners in surgery that result in many complications for the patient. This defamation can have a tragic consequence and can quickly ruin the professional’s name and character; furthermore, it can lead to a drop in the surgeon's business. In time, the surgeon notes that patient numbers are declining and income is dropping. Consequently, the surgeon may have to change his or her practice. However, if these reviews are untrue, then the surgeon can file suit for defamation. In court, the surgeon must prove that none of the alleged complaints are true. They can do this by providing facts, which can include patient reviews, show how they manage their clinical practice, and present complication rates. They can present testimonials from many patients who are satisfied with their surgery. This seems simple, but it requires an enormous amount of time and money to fight defamation cases. What is defamation? Defamation usually involves publication, without any justification, of a derogatory and/or false statement regarding another individual or party. Defamation may either be slander or libel. Libel is a defamatory statement in writing or other visible forms; whereas, slander is a spoken defamatory statement.[8] A defamatory statement has the potential to injure the reputation of another individual, which may lower the opinion of the affected person in society; and this may result in him or her being disliked, hated, ridiculed, feared, or scorned. In most cases, the defamed person will almost always claim that it resulted in a loss of income. Defamation was not historically considered to be a big issue in the healthcare industry. However,  social media has resulted in an increase in defamation cases. Healthcare workers who post or make negative comments about other patients/healthcare workers can face serious legal action.  There have already been many reported cases involving health care professionals in which allegations of defamation have been raised. This article presents several cases of defamation in the healthcare industry to demonstrate potential risk areas during communication. After a nurse resigned, her supervising manager wrote defamatory statements in a letter of reference. She mentioned that the nurse was unstable. The nurse could not get another job, but when she found out what the letter of reference had stated, she filed suit. She did not have a history of mental illness. She wanted a part-time job so that she could look after her mother, who was ill. A parent was questioned about suspected sexual abuse and one of the nurses, thinking that the parent would not hear, remarked that the father looked like an abuser. The parent went to a lawyer, and the nurse was charged with defamation of character and HIPPA violation. The child had not been sexually abused. During an internal hospital review, a nurse made negative remarks about 2 of her colleagues claiming that they were most likely stealing leftover medications. The colleagues filed a lawsuit claiming defamation of character. The hospital settled out of court. There was no evidence that any medication had ever been reported stolen. A doctor was wrongfully dismissed, and the employer stated that the doctor had committed malicious acts. The doctor filed a wrongful dismissal and defamation of character lawsuit. The hospital had to rehire the doctor and settle for an undisclosed amount. The person in human resources who made the information public was fired. A manager called in a nurse and berated her for releasing patient information to her colleagues, an allegation that was false. The manager claimed that the nurse was untrustworthy and unreliable. The nurse filed a lawsuit for defamation of character. It was later proven that another co-worker had released the patient information. The manager was assigned another position. A nurse educator commented to her colleagues that one of the nursing students was lazy and cheating in the exams. The information was hearsay, and the student filed a lawsuit against the nursing instructor and was awarded a lump sum. The nursing manager was assigned other duties. A senior surgeon wrote up a surgery resident for being negligent during the care of the patient, and said that the resident was unfit to be a surgeon. The surgery resident filed suit that his character was defamed and that there was no evidence to substantiate what the surgeon had written. The case went to trial, and the resident won. The court was told that a complication had occurred during surgery, but the surgeon was present at all times and it was he who controlled the events in the operating room. The hospital and the surgeon had to pay a huge penalty and court fees. The resident completed his training; the surgeon’s privileges were curtailed. Although it may seem that it takes time and money to fight these defamation charges; however, a healthcare professional's reputation is often the most valuable asset they have. PB - StatPearls Publishing CY - Treasure Island (FL) UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/30285367/StatPearls:_Defamation L2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531472 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -