MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The internet is all about free speech, but you may want to give a little more thought to that rant you post online about your doctor's care because your comments can get you sued.
It boils down to opinions, like "he's the worst doctor ever" or “he’s mean.” You can say that because it's protected under the first amendment. Then there are comments like "he botched my nose job," and if there's proof that is not true the doctor can sue you for defamation liability.
“The internet is a very scary place for doctors," said Dr. Scott Morris from the Church Health Center.
The internet can be a scary place when there are websites where people can rate and say almost anything about doctors, like ratemds.com. That's where one patient wrote about an Orlando plastic surgeon. The patient posted comments like he "did a poor job" and he leaves "extra scarring." He's now suing the patient for "spreading lies."
People we spoke with say it's better to confront a doctor about what's wrong than to go on a rant online.
"It's sad. It's sick, some people are sick,” said patient Roy McGowan.
"It can be kind of rude but I guess some people try to get it off their chest but I don’t think it's very nice,” said another patient, Katrina Skeofs.
Dr. Morris says he's too busy to worry about what someone posts about him online.
"Whether they love me or hate me what I want to do is make sure I am providing the best care I can,” he said.
But when is your freedom of speech in jeopardy?
"There's always going to be tension between defamation liability and the first amendment,” said University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy. “I think the compromise that we strived a long time ago was, you have the right to speak but you don't have the right to knowingly say false things in order to destroy someone's reputation."
Dr. Morris has been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years and has this advice for his fellow doctors.
"Listening to the patient and understanding that this is about them not about me. I would say that's the best protection any physician can give themselves,” said Dr. Morris.
Professor Mulroy says anonymous speech is also protected under the first amendment. He says that makes it difficult to stop cyber-bullying.