May 31, 2007
The Boston Globe reports of a case that recently had a blogging-related twist. Pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman was being sued in a medical malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year old boy. While on the witness stand, Lindeman was asked by the prosecution’s counsel a seemingly irrelevant question: Are you Flea?
Flea, jurors in the case didn’t know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.
In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff’s case and the plaintiff’s lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.
With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.
The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston’s tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement — case closed.
It appears Lindeman has been running the Dr. Flea blog long before his involvement in the malpractice suit (since taken down after events of the court case). The writings on the blog were described to be “controversial yet intellectually stimulating” by the prosecution’s own lawyer, and the blog was cited often by other medical blogs and even the mainstream media. Since litigation started, however, the Dr. Flea blog had been increasingly used for putting the prosecution and the jury in a bad light.
When Lindeman admitted he was Flea, the prosecution’s lawyers then (privately) threatened to share with the Jury the contents of the Dr. Flea blog, “containing his unvarnished views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process,” which would most likely lose him the case. Lindeman then opted for a settlement.
The disclosure drew mixed feelings from the medical and local blogging communities by surprise. Boston Globe’s White Coat Notes blog cites a few reactions here, which includes thoughts from other doctors and lawyers who blog.
Recently, Andy Merrrett wrote here on the Blog Herald about the ethics of blogging in the medical profession. Andy asks if blogging about one’s activities sits well with the Hippocratic oath. Our own editor, Tony Hung, himself an MD, says blogging is all right to some extent, but he is concerned about doctors griping about patients even anonymously.
These things are for sure. One, you can blog anonymously, but sooner or later your identity might get out in the open. Two, be careful with what you blog–these might come haunt you in the future. We’ve often heard of bloggers getting fired by employers or losing prospective jobs because of previously published blog posts. The same goes with legal cases. In some places, writing about details of ongoing cases can even be considered contempt of court.
[Thanks to Ron S. Miller for the link.]