BERKELEY (CBS 5) – Next time you go to a new doctor, you could be asked to sign a new kind of agreement before heading into the exam room. It’s a document that could place limits on what you say publicly about the doctor once you leave the office. Critics call them “gag orders.”

The agreements go by a variety of names including Anti-Review contracts and Mutual Agreements to Maintain Privacy. Medical Justice, a company in North Carolina, markets its version of the form to doctors as part of an “anti-defamation” protection plan. Under the terms, patients give their doctors the copyright to anything the patient writes or says about the doctor on the web or in print.

“What this supposedly does, is anytime you write a review on line, the doctor ‘owns’ it, and has the right to take it down,” explained Jason Schultz, Director of the Samuelson Law and Technology Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law, and a critic of the agreements.

Schultz said patients often feel pressured to sign the forms.

“They usually get handed out in a stack of forms, when you’re in a very vulnerable and costly position,” said Schultz.

Medical Justice contends the forms are necessary to protect doctors from anonymous and unjustified on-line reviews that can damage a doctor’s reputation.

“It’s used and intended for only egregious postings,” said Shane Stadler of Medical Justice.

Stadler told CBS 5 ConsumerWatch they’re needed because doctors “have no recourse” when bad reviews appear, because doctors are bound by privacy laws that forbid them from responding directly to patients complaints on-line.

Schultz said there are a variety of ways doctors can respond to negative on-line reviews without compromising patients’ privacy.

“The doctor can respond by saying ‘I can’t talk about a particular case, but I can tell you I’m up on all the latest journals,” Schultz explained. “Most people don’t need to know the details of a particular interaction.”

The website is responding to the issue with a Wall of Shame. When the site hears from patients who say they’ve been asked to sign one of the contracts, the site puts the doctor’s name on the list.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (6)
  1. Steve says:

    The simple fact of the matter is they would’nt get bad reviews if they took pride in thier work and made it a point to do a good job in the 1st place.

    1. Shane says:

      Unfortunately that’s not correct. There will always be people out there that don’t get exactly what they want and will write bad reviews. I know someone that was writing negative reviews on their doctor because he told them they were “dangerously overweight” and losing weight would help their problem. (they’re well over 500lbs). They wrote a bunch of terrible reviews for the doctor and went to someone else that will feed them tons of BS and just prescribe them with what they want.

      In this case the doctor should be able to have the posts moderated/removed as they are unwarranted (the doctor told the patient the truth & the patient didn’t want to hear it so they’re posting slanderous information). I believe that if doctors have you sign something like this, they should only be able to remove extremely bad reviews AND only a specific percentage of reviews so they’re not just getting rid of all the bad ones.

      You should also just be aware that this *is* going on and make sure you can find negative reviews. If you can’t find any on the doctor you should know something is up because chances are that someone, somewhere was upset over something they did.

  2. Steve says:

    ego money and politics should never be an issue when it comes the level of health care a patient recieves

  3. Ronald says:

    This is joke. Anyone who actually believes the reviews on line for Doctors, Dentists, a taquaria is lame. Most of the Good ones are from the office staff, the bad ones are from patients who could not get welll. Medicine is not a perfect science. If the Dr. delete them then you just keep on re-adding them. WHat is the website going to do? Look up your IP address? tell the doctor, then the DR needs to go get your name from ATT? Not going to happen. YOu can just state, IN MY OPINION, This doctor is a quack. SHe did this , this, this. Or just not sign the form or scrible something. The office staff does not care.

  4. Anna says:

    That’s rediculous. A doctor can do everything right and still have a disgruntled patient because they didn’t understand their own insurance plan and coverages or because they wanted an unwarranted procedure that the doctor refused to perform.