Hospitals, Doctors Can Sue Patients For Giving Negative Reviews: How This Affects Black Patients

A patient entered a plea deal to end charges after a negative online review violated his civil stalking protection order.

Retired Air Force Col. David Antoon agreed to pay $100 to settle after facing felony charges for emailing his former Cleveland Clinic surgeon articles that the doctor found threatening, even though Antoon was, allegedly, left incontinent and impotent a decade ago following his surgery. A judge ordered him to not contact the doctor or the doctor’s family. Antoon instead left a negative Yelp review, which brought him back into court.

He was facing up to a year in prison.

Antoon is white. Whites, typically, receive better treatment in the heath care system and he was well within his rights to leave the negative comments. According to the judicial system, that was irrelevant.

But in a system with rising evidence of racial bias and discrimination, this could be detrimental for Blacks and Latinos. Evidence indicated that healthcare professionals exhibit the same levels of implicit bias as the wider population. The interactions between multiple patients of different races and healthcare professionals revealed the complexity of the phenomenon of implicit bias and its influence on clinician-patient interaction. A patient should not receive a lower standard of care due to race but it is clearly happening.

Ten T. Lewis, an associate professor of epidemiology at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, explained: “The overwhelming body of research on discrimination and health indicates that self-reported experiences of discrimination are an important risk factor for poor mental and physical health.”

“If you are African-American or Latino and you present to the emergency room with a broken leg or a kidney stone, for example, you’re less likely to be given analgesics at the recommended level,” Lewis says, regarding the administration of medicines that relieve pain. “It doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re in, it doesn’t matter what type of place you’d present to, that we’ve seen fairly consistently.” In addition, she said, there have been similar racial differences found in cardiac care and some studies showing delays in kidney transplantation rates.

So are Blacks at greater risk of litigation even though their care is subpar with reference to industry standards and care given to whites The ramifications are inconceivable given the fact that white physicians would have the means to bog down the Black patient down in legal red tape. Should Blacks not voice concerns over substandard care and risk further injury even possible death just to not be sued for doing so

None of this would remedy the past and ongoing disparities in treatments for Blacks. This is an act of censorship and creates a never-ending cycle and further distrust of medical professionals among Blacks. Possible litigation would be just one more way to silence Black patients who receive low-standard care.