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.