“It would be great if the regulators of hospitals and doctors were more diligent about responding to harm to patients, but they’re not, so people have turned to other people. This is what happens when your system of oversight is failing patients.”
-Lisa McGiffert, former head of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project to USA TODAY
You may be one of the many who rely on online reviews to help make decisions on everything from where to eat to what vendors to choose for house projects. How about using online reviews to decide which doctor to see? With the popularity of websites such as Yelp, Facebook, and other online platforms that allow customers and patients to post their opinion on venues, goods, and services, many are turning to the internet to help them choose healthcare providers.
A number of recent cases of doctors suing patients who post negative reviews have made headlines, including a New York City gynecologist suing a previous patient for $1 million after she posted a Yelp review about what she believes are bad billing practices.
Cleveland Clinic Doctor Wins Lawsuit Against Former Patient
Another notable case involves a Cleveland man who was successfully sued by a urologist after he posted negative online reviews and sent the doctor articles that the doctor found threatening. The patient, retired Air Force Colonel and former commercial pilot David Antoon, took a $100 plea deal last November after being arrested and spending several days in jail.
Almost 10 years prior to the court’s ruling, Dr. Jihad Kaouk performed a robot-assisted urological procedure to remove prostate cancer at Cleveland Clinic that Antoon claims left him both impotent and incontinent. He posted reviews online, emailed the doctor, and sent records to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that allegedly detailed how Dr. Kaouk wasn’t even in the room when the surgery was performed. The State Medical Board of Ohio did not discipline Dr. Kaouk after a 5 year investigation and CMS threatened, but ultimately did not restrict funding to Cleveland Clinic as a result of the information sent to them by David Antoon. CMS’s own report into the incident show that the doctor and Cleveland Clinic were evasive with CMS, with Dr. Kaouk refusing to speak to a CMS investigator and the hospital refusing to allow full access to Antoon’s complaint against the hospital.
Antoon is still pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit against Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Kaouk. Regardless of the rulings by the medical board and CMS, a medical malpractice lawsuit could still go in Antoon’s favor. CMS, while officially able to terminate Medicaid payments to hospitals, often does not take such extreme measures. Instead, CMS’s aim is to push hospitals to fix current problems and implement changes to prevent future safety issues.
A Courtroom, Not the Internet, Is the Place for Justice
A lack of disciplinary action taken by these agencies is important to point out to all those considering a medical malpractice lawsuit. Just because a hospital, medical provider, medical group, clinic, or office wasn’t cited by regulatory authorities, it does not necessarily mean they provided adequate, appropriate care. In fact, it is rare to have a case in which a physician or hospital has lost Medicaid funding or their medical license despite being found negligent in a lawsuit.
While David Antoon is doing the right thing by pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, we caution our readers to not pursue their own online vigilante justice by posting scathing online reviews. While posting factual information such as “the doctor made me wait for an hour” is fine, anything that is not a fact could potentially land you in trouble. As we’ve seen from the New York City gynecologist and Cleveland Clinic, doctors and health groups are fighting back against dissatisfied patients.
If you suspect that a botched procedure or negligent medical care is behind an injury or harm you or a loved one has suffered, don’t resort to the internet to get justice. Let the medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti help you. With nearly 3 decades of experience and over half a billion dollars recovered for our clients, we have a proven track record of going after the truth and getting results for our clients.
For a free consultation, call us toll-free: 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago: 312-332-2872 or complete our online case evaluation form.