Medical Justice Prevents Patients From Sharing Opinions

You will be required to sign an arbitration agreement.

Medical Justice's arbitration agreement
Signing this will mean you sign away your rights.. scanned copy of the agreement

A company called Medical Justice sells a program to doctors that "guarantees" they will not be rated on a doctor rating website. In effect, patients are forced to sign paperwork promising they will never submit information about that specific doctor on a doctor's rating website.

It still boggles my mind that doctors would pay money for such a program! First of all, any doctor that would rely on gagging patients should not be practicing medicine.

Secondly, I can't imagine any court would rule in a doctor's favor if a patient did recount his/her experience about a doctor online. And third - OK - so maybe the patient doesn't post on a doctor's rating site. What if s/he blogged about the experience instead?

As you can imagine, I advised you not to sign any such paperwork.  Of course, there's always the question of what to do if that doctor insists....

That aside... at the time, I also asked any of you, my readers, to let me know if you actually encountered one of these contracts, and if you did, to send me a copy..... well....

No - we didn't get a copy of that contract. But, one reader (who shall remain anonymous) did send me a contract she was told to sign called a "Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement."

The bottom line of the contract is that, once signed, the patient promises that no lawsuits will be filed against that doctor (who happened to be an orthopedist).

Instead, should a problem crop up, the patient would agree to "neutral arbitration" as described by the State of California. Then it spells out how that arbitration would be arranged.

The reader who sent it to me did not sign it. She asked whether signing it was a requirement before she could be seen by the doctor and learned that no, it was not.

In truth, I really don't blame doctors for trying to minimize the chance of being sued. Between the cost of malpractice insurance, the cost of defensive medicine, and the cost of frivolous lawsuits, these expensive, and more legal aspects of medical care have truly gotten out of hand. Arbitration may be a good way to minimize some of that cost.

However! (A BIG however!) -- I recommend you never sign one of these documents. First, your signature could not possibly improve the care you would receive, so there is absolutely no benefit to you from signing it. And second, because it's very likely that the reason a physician would ask you to sign it is because s/he, or perhaps someone else in his/her practice has lost a lawsuit before. These contracts are certainly not common, so why would a doctor even think to ask you to sign one?

There is a definite benefit to the doctor, but little or no benefit to the patient I can think of.  Not that arbitration would be a bad idea.  Depending on the circumstances, it could be quite positive.

  But you don't need to sign an agreement before treatment in order to choose arbitration later, if necessary.

Thanks to my anonymous reader for sending along a copy of this contract. If you find other strange or squirrely contracts in and amongst the paperwork you are given to sign when you visit a doctor, I would love to see a copy if you can send one along.

One other quick reminder -- when it comes to any paperwork you are given to sign before medical treatment, be informed before you give any consent.


Next:  A new service Medical Justice supplies - helping doctors improve their ratings.

This is an update on Medical Justice, a company that promises doctors that none of their patients will ever post a review about them online.

The doctors who subscribe to Medical Justice's services give their patients a form to fill out.  The patient's signature means that patient promises never to rate or review that doctor publicly - not positive, not negative, nuttin.

If you are the patient, and you sign one of those forms, and you think that doctor is wonderful and want to tell the world?

  Can't do it.  You promised not to.

And if you are the patient, and you sign one of those forms, and you are injured, or made sicker, or for some reason have a bad experience with that doctor, you can't tell anyone publicly.  You promised not to.

In other words, no matter what your opinion, your signature means that you have chosen to be censored by that doctor.

And now it turns out that Medical Justice has a relatively new service they offer.... that is.... they write reviews for those doctors, too!  Sure enough, it turns out that Medical Justice has been posting 5-star, very positive reviews on at least two ratings sites - Yelp! and So now, not only are you not allowed to write anything about those doctors who force you to sign censorship promises, but you can see how wonderful those same doctors are because Medical Justice, pretending to be real patients, said so!

While in the past, I've had not-nice things to say about Yelp!, I give them AND some credit here.

  In both cases they have identified many of those fake reviews, and have removed them from their sites.  RateMDs has even gone so far as to list the doctors it knows about who have signed up with Medical Justice so you won't have to guess.

Bottom line?   My advice all along has been to run, don't walk, to the nearest exit. Any doctor who would want to censor you - before you have seen him or her - is not worth the paper their med school diploma is written on.

  They pay HUGE bucks for this promise from Medical Justice.  The only reason they would spend those big bucks is because other patients have already said bad things.....

I've also suggested you stay away from using online review sites.  While there may be some rare good nuggets of information in them, very few of them give you the background information you need for choosing the right doctor for you.

If you want to learn more about your rights, and how to handle one of these doctors who asks you to sign a "Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy." a new website called, a collaboration of the Santa Clara University High Tech Law Institute and The Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California Berkeley School of Law has been put together to help you.

But I also have a bit of a different perspective to share, too.  That is - Medical Justice exists because way too many lawsuits are filed for way too many frivolous reasons in this litigious society of ours.

  I do believe that many lawsuits are warranted.  Heaven knows that there are far too many ways patients are injured, made sicker or die at the hands of the healthcare system.  But too many lawsuits are a bonus for lawyers only and don't benefit patients OR doctors - and doctors, fairly, are looking for ways to protect themselves from frivolous claims.

But censoring patients with opinions is not the way doctors should choose to protect themselves.  If they truly want to be sure their professional reputations are positive, then they should spend the money they now give to Medical Justice on some educational pursuits to help them improve their service to patients.

Some good communication, and less censorship, will go a long way.

•  Learn more about doctors' ratings websites and how to use them (or avoid them.)

•  Learn more about researching a doctor.

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