Paging Dr. Flea
May 31, 2007 3:14 AM   Subscribe

"Anonymous" bloggers, don't be stupid. A physician blogs about his malpractice suit during the trial, using an alias, and is unmasked in court. He settles the next day.
posted by Kirth Gerson (35 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
*suppressed snicker*
posted by Phire at 3:25 AM on May 31, 2007


He seems to have deteted all the content from his blog. Somewhat late.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:27 AM on May 31, 2007


Oh, wait - here he is.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:29 AM on May 31, 2007


*unsuppressed guffaw*
plaintiff's counsel went easy on him. if it had been me, he would have been reading extensively from his own uncomplimentary blog entries on the stand, telling the jurors and the court exactly what he thought of them.
posted by bruce at 3:53 AM on May 31, 2007


oooh, cruel streak, bruce?
posted by Phire at 4:02 AM on May 31, 2007


Yes, it would seem to be common sense not to discuss ongoing legal proceedings in a public forum.

But based on the descriptions from the linked article, he wasn't discussing the merits of the case itself; it says nothing of him admitting fault or even mentioning his treatment of the boy at all.

As far as I know, it's not illegal to be coached on your courtroom demeanor, as long as you don't perjure yourself. If that's true, wouldn't the contents of his blog be objectionable as irrelevant to the case? If there are any IAALs out there, inquiring minds want to know.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:03 AM on May 31, 2007


Meh. I know he's an idiot for blogging about an ongoing court case, but it's stupid that this case was decided on that fact, rather than on the medical merits of it. Being an ass on a blog is not equivalent to screwing up as a doctor and killing someone, and should not have a similar fine.

Medical malpractice trials should involve a panel of impartial medical experts, because a layman can't be expected to determined accurately if a doctor screwed up. How could they? You can buy yourself an 'expert' to give a favorable opinion of anything, and the jurors don't have any way of telling which expert is right and which one is the shill.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:05 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr, the case wasn't "decided on that fact;" Dr. Flea settled. He apparently decided that continuing with the trial was not going to be to his benefit, and it looks like the reason is the disclosure of his blog. As for "a layman can't be expected to determined accurately if a doctor screwed up," even if it were true, that's our system, which includes expert witnesses and judicial instruction. Doctors are no more expert at what they do than are a number of other professions, and are not deserving of special treatment on that basis.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:22 AM on May 31, 2007


Speaking as someone who has been blogging since before that was the word for it, this saddens me.

Of course there's an obvious incentive to "watch what you say," in any medium. Don't blog things you don't mean. Don't blog angry. And for the love of god, don't blog under the influence.

But when I look at this case, I wonder what we've lost. Expert analysis of issues in the pediatric and medical community. Transparancy into the behind-the-scenes aspects of our legal proceedings. Eloquent and insightful content, now gone because your opinion can be a legal liability.

I don't have kids, but if I did I wouldn't feel better now that there's one less source of information out there regarding their health. I wouldn't be relieved that this precedent will discourage others from contributing their opinions. I wouldn't be happy that my only sources of information will be drug company press releases and the "infallible" dogma of the medical establishment.

And I wouldn't have faith in the legal system that protects my children, knowing that I just won't hear about its flaws.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:37 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Never too soon to be through. Being cool too much too soon. Too much for me, too much for you. You're going to lose in time. Don't be afraid to show your friends that you hurt inside. Pain's part of life don't hide behind your false pride. It's a lie, your lie.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:46 AM on May 31, 2007


Sorry to be spamming the thread, but this same guy guest-blogged on the topic of legally-defensible medicine versus best-interest-of-the-patient medicine. Seemed notable.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:46 AM on May 31, 2007


Right, post your anonymous messages to Usenet through anonymizers.
posted by davy at 4:51 AM on May 31, 2007


"He that is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." - anon

He that blogs his own case while representing himself must be some special class of ass.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:13 AM on May 31, 2007


Remember, children:

1. Email is forever.
2. Anonymity isn't.
3. The Internet never forgets.

And the new and improved Golden Rule: "Never write anything on the Internet that you wouldn't want an angry lawyer to read."
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:41 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Shortly before the end of his second day on the witness stand, while focusing on Lindeman's views of a pediatric textbook, Mulvey asked him whether he had a medical blog, she recalled. He said he did. Then she asked him if he was Flea. He said he was.

Heh. The interesting this is that it didn't involve any sleuthing work. I had assumed the defense had like, subpoenaed ISP records and stuff. Instead, they just asked him on the stand if it was his blog.
posted by delmoi at 6:09 AM on May 31, 2007


Of course they asked him on the stand. It gave him the opportunity to perjure himself. Luckily for him, he did not.
posted by flarbuse at 6:22 AM on May 31, 2007


2nding MarshallPoe. Everything you write, imagine the words "Your Honor" at the beginning, before you post/send it. For example: "Your Honor, Smiths actions were less than honorable," is probably better than "Your Honor, Smith is a complete douchebag."
posted by Joe Invisible at 7:09 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


2nding MarshallPoe. Everything you write, imagine the words "Your Honor" at the beginning, before you post/send it. For example: "Your Honor, Smiths actions were less than honorable," is probably better than "Your Honor, Smith is a complete douchebag."

While you're at it, conduct yourself in your own home exactly the way you would in a public place.
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


if it had been me, he would have been reading extensively from his own uncomplimentary blog entries on the stand, telling the jurors and the court exactly what he thought of them.
posted by bruce at 6:53 AM on May 31


This is why people hate some lawyers. What difference does it make what he thinks of the jury? IS it relevant? No. Is it even evidence? Nope. It's nothing. If I were his lawyer, I would pray daily that you'd force him to read this stuff in court, just so I could move for a mistrial and have some grounds for appeal.

If I were the witness, after reading the excerpts I would have looked you dead in the eye and said "I said those things out of frustration and I'm sorry. I didn't mean them. I'm frustrated because no one is asking about the countless grateful and thankful patients I've healed over the years. It's frustrating because I had to make difficult and complex medical judgment based on my years of training and what I thought were the best interests of the patients, and now I'm being second guessed by some ambulance chasing lawyer.


Too bad no one can force this lawyers to repeat what he said about the jurors outside of court the other day. Too bad no one can force him to repeat what he and his colleagues said about some of the jurors and some of the people excluded from the jury during the jury selection process. No one can force him to repeat the things he said, and it isn't fair."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:23 AM on May 31, 2007



2nding MarshallPoe. Everything you write, imagine the words "Your Honor" at the beginning, before you post/send it. For example: "Your Honor, Smiths actions were less than honorable," is probably better than "Your Honor, Smith is a complete douchebag."

While you're at it, conduct yourself in your own home exactly the way you would in a public place.
posted by hermitosis at 10:17 AM on May 31


Oh, and conduct yourself in person assuming you are on video tape, because chances are, you are on video. It's too bad the Constitution gives us freedom of speech but so many people are afraid of lawsuits that they are too afraid to exercise it.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 AM on May 31, 2007


Riki tiki: There's no new precedent here, nothing specific to blogging and nothing that prevents people from doing all the good things you describe. "Don't make public comments about the case" is very basic advice that any lawyer will give to their client in this situation. The only new angle here is that he thought he could get away with it on his "anonymous" blog. Even if the commentary on the case is important to post publicly, he just had to wait until the trial was over before uploading it.
posted by winston at 8:32 AM on May 31, 2007


"But based on the descriptions from the linked article, he wasn't discussing the merits of the case itself"

It says he "ridiculed the plaintiff's case."
posted by winston at 8:35 AM on May 31, 2007


hermitosis writes "2nding MarshallPoe. Everything you write, imagine the words 'Your Honor' at the beginning, before you post/send it. For example: 'Your Honor, Smiths actions were less than honorable,' is probably better than 'Your Honor, Smith is a complete douchebag.'

"While you're at it, conduct yourself in your own home exactly the way you would in a public place."


No thank you. I'll conduct myself any damn way I please in my home. Appreciate the care and concern though.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2007


While you're home, be sure to check the batteries in your sarcasm detector. It helps if you lick the nine-volt before you put it in.
posted by hermitosis at 9:32 AM on May 31, 2007


Winston has it. We don't lose transparency and insider commentary because of this incident; we are merely reminded of the fact that it's not a good idea to do dumb things. All Flea had to do was wait until after the trial to post this stuff.

Or, if he really had an overwhelming need to hit "post" as it was ongoing, he could have started a new, super-anonymous blog. That isn't foolproof, of course, but the thing is that his blog was already well known. It had been linked by the Globe. I'd expect any well-informed malpractice attorney to know about it. There was no super sleuthing here; just a previously anonymous, semi-prominent blogger writing about an ongoing matter of public record.

And the new and improved Golden Rule: "Never write anything on the Internet that you wouldn't want an angry lawyer to read."

Tightening that up a bit, how about "don't be stupid."
posted by ibmcginty at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


[obviousfilter]Be careful what you post online...bla bla bla[/obviousfilter]

Setting aside the expected platitudes about the nature of the internet, this story begs the question:

Under what bizarre pretext do comments written on a personal blog in 2007 have to do with medical decisions made in professional capacity in 2002?
posted by uri at 10:34 AM on May 31, 2007


Ugh, half-edited sentence, should be:

Under what bizarre pretext are comments written on a personal blog in 2007 pertinent to medical decisions made in a professional capacity in 2002?
posted by uri at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2007


MarshallPoe : "Never write anything on the Internet that you wouldn't want an angry lawyer to read."

*Looks over posting history on Metafilter*

Crap.
posted by quin at 10:43 AM on May 31, 2007


On the Internet, nobody everybody knows you're a doc.
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


If his blind, fumbling arrogance as a blogger is at all reflective on his professional attitudes and decisionmaking as a doctor, maybe his blog really was relevant. As "flea" himself said, he was instructed that the malpractice jury would make its decision based on its perception of his character.

If the jury was going to find him a stupid, preening asshole, no wonder he settled.
posted by sacre_bleu at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2007


hermitosis writes "While you're home, be sure to check the batteries in your sarcasm detector. It helps if you lick the nine-volt before you put it in."

Laffo. Ya got me.

OWWWW MY TONGUE!!!!!!!!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2007


I agree with you, sacre_bleu, the blog transcripts would likely have been quite devastating to the jury's perception of his character. My question was more posed towards the nature of medical malpractice as it's decided today. I don't buy the idea that this guy can't be both professionally competent and an arrogant asshole in his personal life.

If tenure were decided by similar criteria I would have missed out on some of my best courses in college.
posted by uri at 12:06 PM on May 31, 2007


"Don't do dumb things."

I am writing that one down.
posted by pointilist at 4:39 PM on May 31, 2007


Here's my heresy: Jury trials are ridiculous.
It is a tribute to civic duty of most of the citizens of this countty that most cases are rightly decided. However, does it really make any sense to entrust something as important as the liberty, property or even life of the accused to a group of people, selected largely at random, who had nothing more pressing to do.
Apellate courts in this country and all courts in many other countries use panels of judges to make the determination. Although any observer of the Supreme Court knows that this is not entirely without flaws, it does ensure that the people hearing the case have been trained in the arcane language of the process and are (more) likely to see through appeals to emotion and other tricks.

[Bald attempt to link this off-topic screed to the discussion]
I doubt judges would have been as likely to equate his weasellyness with medical incompetence as Dr. Flea realized the jury was going to (hence the settlement).
posted by Octaviuz at 10:53 AM on June 1, 2007


Octaviuz, I don't agree with your characterizations of the jury-trial system. At least where I live, it is most definitely not the case that people picked for jury duty "have nothing more pressing to do," if by that you mean a job to go to. Candidates are not excused for specious reasons here; I have sat on juries that included lots of people who would rather be somewhere else. And, in fact, is there anything more pressing than determining the truth when someone's fortune or freedom is at stake?

As for the case at hand, I bet the defendant's blogging about the trial and calling the plaintiff's lawyer names would be taken into consideration by a judge, to Dr. Flea's discomfort. It didn't get that far, but I suspect he would have settled even if no jury were involved, to prevent the judge from learning what was on the blog. I'm no lawyer, but since attorneys are officers of the court, wouldn't insulting one of those officers publicly be contemptuous of the court?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:24 PM on June 1, 2007


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