Kansas And Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Discusses A Physician’s Responsibility To Debunk “Fake News” Presented By A Patient

One does not have to search too hard today for claims of “fake news” passed off as actual events. Social media has been rife with false claims of factual situations for some time. Unfortunately, such claims crept into our Presidential election, and mainstream media suffered accusations of passing off fake news as fact. The medical profession is not immune from patients being misled by fake news stories. A simple “Google” search can yield seemingly official results, marked with an imprimatur of legitimacy. Internet search results should inspire a person to ask their physician questions and not accept the results as a substitute for a trained medical professional’s opinion.  Consequently, doctors and other healthcare professionals must take care to debunk misinformation presented by their patients. Their failure to do so could lead to claims of unethical behavior and malpractice. Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger represents healthcare professionals facing allegations of unethical conduct.

The notion of fake news is baffling in many ways. Why promulgate false information? To what end? Joel Cooper, D.O. suggests that people or institutions who generate fake news are trying to manipulate people financially, economically, or politically without regard for the potentially harmful consequences people who believe the fake news can suffer. No one is immune. Dr. Cooper related how the medical device company Theranos created an impression across the medical community that their new product could somehow deliver accurate blood analysis without drawing as much blood from patients as typically required. The claims proved false, yet before Theranos’ claims could be disproved, doctors and other healthcare professionals were buying in.

If physicians can buy into fake news, it is not hard to imagine that a member of a vulnerable population could suffer the same fate, with potentially disastrous consequences.  People who suffer from chronic or fatal diseases, desperate to find a cure, could easily be trapped by unscrupulous claims for a substance providing a miracle cure. Another good example and one which garners much debate is the question of childhood vaccinations.  Many sources claim conclusively that traditional childhood vaccinations cause autism, according to Dr. Cooper, notwithstanding the fact that scientific research proves the hypothesis wrong. Similarly, Dr. Cooper relates that many people in need of taking a cholesterol drug refuse to take a statin only because someone on social media claimed that someone they know suffered a rare side effect from the medication.  Because of the misinformation, the patient refuses to take the drug that can prevent heart disease leading to an early death.

What can be done to combat this problem? Dr. Cooper suggests honest and open communication with their patients and spending time with them to dispel their fears and concerns. Failure to do so can undermine the doctor’s ability to treat the patient with “evidence-based” diagnostic and treatment modalities. Dr. Cooper does not discourage patients from asking questions. In fact, he wants to foster good communication to address his patients’ concerns. Dismissing the patient’s question can be seen as arrogant by the patient cause the patient to refuse to communicate with their physician. Dr. Cooper argues that communication and fostering a higher level of trust is the antidote to the poison of misinformation. Dr. Cooper also argues that doctors owe a duty to the public to work hard to dispel fake news stories. He suggests taking to social media as a method of opening the lines of communication between the public and medical profession.

Failure to Dispel Fake News Stories Early Can Cause Future Problems

Encourage your patients to ask questions. Open, and frank dialogue builds trust between patient and healthcare provider. Failure to do so can result in claims of malpractice and unethical conduct. If you have fallen victim to claims of unethical conduct, call Kansas Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger today at 785-979-4353 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Sanger has devoted her professional life to defending professional licensees who face discipline.