British doctors cautioned on Facebook ethics

BRITISH doctors and medical students have been warned not to accept friend requests from patients on social networking sites such as Facebook and to adopt a conservative approach to online relationships, to prevent blurring the doctor-patient relationship.

The guidance from the British Medical Association follows a similar warning from the AMA to Australian medicos late last year as social networking sites continue to expand in popularity and evolve in application.

Chairman of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee, Dr Tony Calland, said the guidance was an important tool in aiding doctors to avoid potential social media pitfalls.

“Medical professionals should be wary of who could access their personal material online, how widely it could be shared and how it could be perceived by their patients and colleagues,” he said.

“Accepting Facebook friends presents doctors with difficult ethical issues. For example, doctors