An OB-GYN in St. Louis has inadvertently ignited an Internet flame war by venting about a tardy patient on her Facebook page. Dr. Amy Dunbar posted, "I have a patient who has chosen to either no-show or be late (sometimes hours) for all of her prenatal visits, ultrasounds and NSTs. She is now three hours late for her induction. May I show up late for her delivery?"

The hospital reprimanded her for her “unprofessional conduct,” but some people are saying that’s not enough and she should be fired for violating doctor/patient confidentiality (she also posted that the woman had had a stillbirth -- although I’m not sure how they figured that out if no names were used).

Or, maybe everyone could take a chill pill and realize that if someone doesn’t want to be called out for being late, they should strive for punctuality. So maybe this doctor shouldn’t have posted her complaint publically, but it’s definitely not a health privacy issue.

Most of us kibitz about stuff on Facebook. It’s a great venting forum, and smart people don’t use names. Really smart people inject humor. Dr. Dunbar was frustrated with her perpetually late patient, so she made a joke about it and shared it with her friends online. Why are patients allowed to complain about doctors being late, but not the other way around?

This whole thing is being blown out of proportion, and she should definitely not lose her job over it. She got in trouble at work, and the hospital even went back and combed through several months of posts to see if there were any other ethical violations.

The thing about social media is that it’s social. We use it to connect to one another, and once we start saying that we can’t complain about our crappy days and get some sympathy from friends, we’re denying ourselves the human experience. Like it or not, social networks are the new water cooler. Just be careful with what you say, because the digital equivalent of, “She’s standing right behind me, isn’t she?” is much more prevalent online than in real life.

Do you think this doctor should be fired for posting on Facebook that her patient was late (again)?


Image via comedy-nose/Flickr