Clipboard: Readers respond to suit filed against man who complained online about wife’s doctor

A story in Sunday’s Boston Globe about Gary Votour, who wrote a blog post about his frustration with the care provided to his wife following a surgery during which she suffered a stroke, has prompted some strong debate among readers. Liz Kowalczyk of the Globe staff wrote that Votour issued an “open letter’’ online to the surgeon after the doctor declined a request to meet with him. She writes:

He got a response, just not the one he had hoped for.

Last month, the surgeon, Dr. Sagun Tuli, sued Votour and the owner of the website for defamation in Middlesex Superior Court, demanding $100,000 for the damage she said the blog post had done to her career. Her lawyer, David Rich of Boston, said Votour’s blog popped up on the first page of Google search results for Tuli, who now works at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham. Votour has since removed the blog post.

“It’s difficult to believe we have a legal system that allows people to be sued for expressing their grief,’’ Votour said in an interview.

The Digital Media Project at Harvard University tracks cases in which patients were similarly sued for writing negatively online about providers. In some, Kowalczyk writes, the patients removed their negative comments. In others, judges found that the writing was protected by the patient’s right to free speech.


Dozens of readers have commented on the story, mostly about how Votour’s actions reflect on the health care system. Reader djm71 had this analysis:

Yet another story on the chaos of the contemporary health care system. The ingredients for the chaos include: 1. an insurance system which fails to build in adequate reimbursement for doctors time treating the intangibles of the patient-provider relationship; 2. A western medical mindset which is excessively fractured and unable to see the interconnectedness of mind and body; 3. A training system which has overly focused on selecting people who happen to be strong in basic sciences and who are total disasters at interpersonal relationships; 4. A business overlay in which the business people, who have a blind eye regarding the nuances of health care, have been given an inappropriate level of control over the healing relationships; 5. The occasional manifestations of personality disorders and other psychiatric problems in people in the positions of power.

That is just a beginning list. It could keep going for pages.

Marjalo offered condolences to Votour, and added this:

I am equally sorry that the good doctors, whose ivory tower has allowed them to do whatever they want while claiming “privilege’’ when called on it, now have to face reality. Don’t want to deal with patient’s families? Then don’t be a doctor.

Here’s a different take from Ronin555:

It is my understanding from the article that, following the surgery, the physician did spend considerable time with Mr. Votour. He was, however, unsatisfied with her answers. What, exactly, could she have said that would have lessened his grief? And once his wife was transferred, I would think that her role in her care had ended. She was, after all, a surgeon, not a primary care physician.

As far as her lack of empathy, physicians are required to see hundreds of patients every week. That’s a lot of empathy to be expected to dole out.

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