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Legal implications of free medical advice over the internet.

Santa Monica, CA |

I'm a licensed psychiatrist and I am thinking of dispensing free general mental health advice to the public over twitter. I am wondering if I can be taken to court in case someone follows my advice for the wrong problem and something goes wrong.

And secondly, there are people who ask me specific questions about their psychiatric problem on twitter, publicly. If I answer them, would it be considered as a patient-doctor relationship and can my advice be used as evidence of providing care in a malpractice suit (if someone takes it to such an extreme)?

In short, I am thinking of doing something like this website but in my profession in the interests of the people as a service but without getting myself into harm. Also, with twitter, there is no place to add a "legal disclaimer".

Thank you.

Reading the answers by Ms. Goldstein, Ms. Sinclair, Mr. Gold, Mr. Poulson and Mr. Stiteler make me realize I did not come off the right way. To clarify, I do not intend to run an online practice. It is just that I am quite well-known in my field and a lot of people on twitter know who I am. They keep asking me questions pertaining to my profession (more mental health than outright psychiatry though), I keep ignoring them and I feel bad that I am not helping them when I can. I am certain I can give them general medical advice pertaining to their question without going into the specifics of the case in 140 characters. My question is whether or not such an advice would be classified as a "physician curbside consult" or would be considered a "doctor-patient relation" and hence make me liable. I definitely would not want to risk my license but if I "can" help those people seeking my help take the first step towards better mental health without any liability, I would like to do it.

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Filed under: Civil rights
Attorney answers 5

Best Answer

In addition to the very good comments of the other attorneys, you should be aware that you might be considered to be practicing tele-medicine in those states in which the individuals live to whom you are giving this advice. You could run into significant licensure issues in that some of these states, which in turn could jeopardize your license in the state in which you practice.

In other words, 'Here be Dragons.'

I am licensed in New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and therefore any discussion of issues related to other states must considered within that context. In addition, my comments are not intended to create a legal representation but merely to respond to the limited facts presented by the question. Any opinion herein is not meant as a precise statement of legal rights or as a recommendation of any particular course of action. A more complete legal review can be obtained through local counsel.


Why would you risk your license by dispensing what you term advice? Have you not seen all the disclaimers here and on other sites where professionals offer suggestions? This is not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship has been established. Likewise, you should not dispense advice either. If this is a sincere question, you should consult directly with a lawyer and not rely on an online Q&A forum.

Avvo had a medical section but I believe it has been sold. You probably can find it and participate there. Your "suggestions" would be protected by their disclaimers. The goal is to minimuze your risk, not increase it.

Hillary Johns

Hillary Johns


I concur with counsel. Not the best idea although I do see that you want to help people while marketing yourself at the same time. There are a few websites that have this service. Why not just look them up and see which one your like best and try it?


I agree with my learned colleague that you should consult with your attorney. If you can be a psychitrist in 140 characters, you should write a novel with that theme!

We do not have a client/attorney relationship until you make an appointment, we discuss your case face to face, I accept a retainer, and we explictly agree to enter into representation.


MY colleagues are correct. Avvo 's medical forum is now under Healthtap. You may want to review their system to see if you are comfortable there. Otherwise, you spent a lot of time and money in school to put your profession at risk on Twitter.

** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ** My response above is not legal advice and it does not establish an attoreny-client relationship. When responding to questions posted on Avvo, I provide a general purpose response based on California law as I am licensed in California. In reviewing my response, you are specifically advised that your use of, or reliance upon any response I provide is not advisable. I do not have all relevant background details or facts related to your issue / matter, thus I am not in a position to give you legal advice. Further, your review, use of, or reliance upon my response does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us nor does it qualify as a legal consultation for any purpose. For specific advice regarding your particular circumstances, you should consult and retain local counsel. Law Offices of Eric J. Gold Telephone: 818-279-2737 Email: service@egoldlaw.con


The suggestion that you can effectively tweet anything of value casts suspicion on your sincerity. Assuming you are, you should consider drawing a bright line between advice and information, as most of us do here on legal Avvo. Then, as a question of marketing, you would need to consider whether you have anything fresh or unique or valuable that is not already available online. The legal exposure is one large consideration, but one of several.

Best wishes for a favorable outcome, and please remember to designate a best answer.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.

Hillary Johns

Hillary Johns


That and if you're that successful, probably a good idea to have a business lawyer on retainer or who you can call when you have legal questions or need legal advice. Avvo is general in nature.