It's well known that many physicians are among the 350 million-strong Facebook community, and that more than a few doctors have "friended" patients. It's been documented that physicians can embarrass themselves in such online social forums. We've also heard of patients attempting to discuss clinical information with their doctors via Facebook. So it seems inevitable that some people would use the world's most popular networking site to flirt with their physicians.
In Britain, the Medical Defense Union, a legal services organization for medical professionals, says it is aware of numerous attempts to proposition doctors via Facebook or other social sites and warns that it would be "wholly inappropriate" for a physician to respond. "Some doctors have told the MDU they feel it would be rude not to reply, if only to politely refuse, but given that this is not a professional route of communication, any correspondence of this sort would clearly stray outside the doctor/patient relationship," Dr. Emma Cuzner, a medico-legal adviser for the organization, tells E-Health Europe.
The MDU also cautions doctors against posting too much personal information on Facebook. It highlighted one instance of a female physician being asked out by a patient in person. She declined, but the patient contacted her via Facebook, where he learned of the doctor's favorite flowers. It wasn't too long until a bouquet arrived at the office.
For more about the hazards of social networking:
- check out this E-Health Europe story