A Minnesota judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a neurologist who objected to online criticisms posted by a patient's son. Dr. David McKee of Duluth sued Dennis Laurion for defamation after Laurion posted critical comments about McKee's bedside manner.
But St. Louis County District Court Judge Eric L. Hylden said the statements were “nothing more or less than one man's description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician” and said there was no reason to treat online comments any differently than more traditional means of expression.
Laurion said in his postings that McKee had been brusque and insensitive while examining Kenneth Laurion, 83, who had been hospitalized with a stroke. McKee reportedly said in front of the patient that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within the first 30 days.
“I guess this is the better option,” McKee said, according to Laurion. McKee also told the elder Laurion that when he could not find Laurion in intensive care, it took him a while to track him down to the regular room to which he had been moved.
McKee said he had “spent time finding out if you were transferred or died,” Laurion's postings said.
McKee denied making the statements and sued Laurion for $50,000. After Judge Hylden said he found “no defamatory meaning” in Laurion's posts, McKee was quoted as calling Laurion “a liar, a bully and a coward,” Courthouse News Service reported.
Doctors are famously thin-skinned and frequently react without outrage, threats and lawsuits when patients dare to complain about the treatment they receive. So far, courts in various states are reacting differently to such cases.