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Dueling Websites Offer Competing Views Of Patients' Rights To Review Medical Care

Publication Date: 
April 22, 2011
Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal (BNA)
Joyce E. Cutler

Professor Hank Greely was quoted in the Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal (BNA) on whether Medical Justice, a company trying to restrict online patient reviews, should be able to prevent customers from criticizing medical services.

Two Northern California law schools have created a website to counter what its creators contend is an attempt by physicians to use copyright law to restrict patients' free speech rights to review medical care.

The University of California Berkeley Law School's Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic and Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute created the website to show how doctors use contracts to prohibit patients from posting reviews on websites such as Yelp and Angie's List.


Hank Greely, Stanford Law professor and director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, said it was a "breathtaking degree of arroganceā€ to attempt to prevent a customer from criticizing the services received.

"I don't think someone acting in the marketplace, operating as a professional, and seeking clients, patients, customers should be able to say, 'you can't talk about me,'" Greely said April 18.

The California Supreme Court held "decades ago" that doctors cannot make a patient entering a relationship with them sign an agreement stating "You cannot sue for malpractice. That's void. This, it seems is even a broader reach. You can't even criticize them on the Internet," Greely told BNA. "It's clever but it really shouldn't work."