Monday, June 04, 2007

New details of Flea’s trial offer yet another lesson in smart blogging

Recent discussions of blogging hazards have focused on patient confidentiality, saying things you wouldn’t want your boss to read and, most recently, blogging about your malpractice trial. But new revelations about Flea’s trial raise another hazard that has received little attention up to now.

The New York Personal Injury Law Blog reports that the plaintiff’s attorney

…..scoured his blog for helpful information, much the way any attorney would review writings produced by a witness for the other side. She found a post where Flea referred to Nelson’s Pediatrics as the bible of pediatrics. (I have the 11th ed. from 1979 on my own bookshelf.) So she asked him on the witness stand if he considered Nelson's the bible for pediatrics. He said no. Lawyers call that a "prior inconsistent statement" that allows us to confront the witness with the other statement. That meant asking him if he was Flea and confronting him with the blog posting.

We tend to regard clinical topics as safe blogging material. Flea’s case tells us that’s not necessarily so. Clinical opinions, or opinions about text books and other clinical references, particularly strong declarative statements, could be used against you as a defendant when the clinical topic is relevant to the case you’re defending.

What’s a blogger to do? First and foremost, whether you’re anonymous or open don’t be dogmatic or absolute. Clinical medicine, after all, isn’t that way. It is subtle and nuanced, so be subtle and nuanced in your discussions. Be careful how you describe clinical references. Up to Date may be helpful at the point of care but it’s not “authoritative”. Harrison’s textbook may be a useful reference but it’s not “the bible”.

Kevin and his commenters have more.

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