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October 28, 2013

Policing Online Professionalism: Are We Too Alarmist?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Medical Ethics, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York
JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(19):1767-1768. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.9983

It is hard to argue with concerns about the proper use of social media by medical students, residents, and senior physicians. In many instances, medical professionals have posted clearly offensive and inappropriate material.

Yet the rush to police online behavior obscures the fact that similar issues have been debated for centuries. To what degree is proper “etiquette” part of a physician’s duty? What elements of physicians’ private and public lives are patients entitled to know? Should the rights of physicians outside work be more restricted than those of people with other jobs? Revisiting this history may help to develop guidance and regulations that foster professionalism but that do not unfairly restrict the online activities of doctors.

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