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Woman Wins Right to Criticize Surgeon on Website 250

Scoopy writes "The website of a cosmetic surgery patient critical of her Sacramento surgeon's work is protected free speech, an appeals court said in an opinion that could have statewide implications. The website contains before and after photographs of 33-year-old Georgette Gilbert, who said the surgery left her with one eyebrow higher than the other and a surprised look permanently affixed to her face. The website was challenged in a defamation suit filed by surgeon Jonathan Sykes, a prominent professor and television commentator on the subject of cosmetic surgery. Although the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal only mentions Sykes, the opinion suggests that others who use 'hot topics' of public interest in their advertisements and promotions may shed protections against defamation afforded to ordinary citizens."
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Woman Wins Right to Criticize Surgeon on Website

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  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @01:12AM (#17930824) Homepage Journal
    Sad thing about that website is that she looked pretty good in the 'before' photo []. People should realise the risks of any surgery before they make minor cosmetic changes to their appeaarance.

    Also, TFA is reg-required (Do I really want to spend x minutes signing up & agreeing to God know what on a paper I'll never read again?). So, for your reading pleasure the story from metnews [].

    Lastly, shouldn't that headline read: Woman's Right to Criticize Surgeon on Website upheld
  • Patient's privacy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @01:55AM (#17931148)
    The part I've wanted to see discussed are the doctors rights to publicly rebut a site that complains about them. Under strict medical privacy laws it's not like a doctor could ( or should ) reveal medical details or photos in a public forum. So if a patient complains and sets up a web site, does that absolve the doctor in question from any requirements for maintaing confidentiality? When I heard about this and other similar sites, that was one of my first questions. If not, from a public opinion point of view they're screwed.

    I firmly believe that a patient should have the right to critisize their doctor, but I also believe the doctors should have the ablitly to defend themselves. I'd have liked to have seen part of a ruling that said they were no longer required to keep confidentiality for that particular patient.

    If the doctor is not in a position to put up a web site, with pictures and inimate details of a patient who's gone public, then that person should be refrained from going public. Since that's pretty hard to enforce retroactively the only recourse seems to view the patient's public proclamations as relinquishing all privacy rights with respect to the doctor or hospital involved.

  • by chimpo13 ( 471212 ) <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:14AM (#17931260) Homepage Journal
    Lastly, shouldn't that headline read: Woman's Right to Criticize Surgeon on Website upheld

    The Sacramento Bee has the headline, "Woman wins right to attack her plastic surgeon on the Web".

    Attack? What the hell?
  • by Christoph ( 17845 ) <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:27AM (#17931336) Homepage Journal
    A defamation lawsuit can server to deter others from speaking up, even if the Plaintiff looses the suit. This strategy is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)...making Free speech (against them) cost money.

    As a personal example, photos of mine were published in the local phone book (in a corporate advertisement) without my permission. When the corporation refused to compensate me, I wrote about it on my website. They then sued me for defamation.

    Do I have the certificate of copyright registration for my photos? Yes. Then why would they sue? If nothing else, it means public criticism against them will cost you years in court. This case is very simple, I've long since proven the photos they published are mine, yet the case has been in court for 18 months now. See: Vilana Financial [].

  • by grimJester ( 890090 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:55AM (#17931480)
    Her face is much longer in the second pic (distance between hairline and chin compared to width of face). The pic could be photoshopped as well. The face in the left pic is 157 pixels from side to side, the right 140. Length goes from 225 to 240. Ratio goes from 1,43 to 1,71. Using the width of my own face as an approximation, it looks like that woman had her face lenghtened by two full inches. If you try to figure out what part(s) of her face could have been stretched this much, the conclusion would pretty much be that the picture has been evenly stretched. I mean, even her forehead is noticabely higher after surgery. Skull extension?

    The pic looks fake.
  • by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:11AM (#17931512) Homepage Journal
    She put up the web site with the "terrible" photos because she wants money from the surgeon. She puts up a web site saying the surgeon is a hack. She hopes the sugeon will settle out of court and give her money. The deal being, he pays her off and the web site goes away. So it is in her best interest to make herself look as trashed over as she can. The surgeon looks at the web site and instantly can see what she is doing. He knows her looks are not accurately being depicted by the photos she posted, so he countersues to get the web site taken down. Unfortunately he lost that part. No, the web site is part of the gun at the surgeon's head. It's a very smart move. It is attacking his prospects for future clients, and pressures him to settle.

    How many previous malpractice suits there are are irelevent to whether or not there was malpractice in this case. First of all, her statement that there may be many more cases that were settled out of court, is designed to lead you to make the conclusion there probably have been many more cases. This is actually almost certainly false. Generally, any time you are going to request money you issue the statement of claim to the courts at the very beginning, which starts a law suit. Even cases that are settled out of court, almost 100% of the time, they have a case number. This is done to protect the "plaintiff" against claims of extortion. If you are trying to get money from someone, and no to get them to stop an activity or perform an action, your lawyer will tell you the first thing to do is issue a statement of claim through the courts.

    As for the cited cases, malpractice is, unfortunately, much more common for plastic surgeons than other specialties. We also have no way of knowing if those cases were settled in the plaintifs favour or not. They should not alter your opinion of the surgeon unless you take the time to research them. Having them on her site is just more leverage she is trying to use against the doctor.

    No, the more I think of it and look at her site, the more I sympathize with the surgeon.
  • by lendude ( 620139 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @04:12AM (#17931804)
    The 'after photo' definitely looks suspect - it appears as if the height v width ratios have been altered to create more length to the photo than was originally there. Put it back to it's 'correct' dimensions and she might just look a little surprised.
  • by Web Goddess ( 133348 ) * on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:37AM (#17932120)
    gnurfed said, "That said, it's great that we have plastic surgery for patients with actual disfigurements."

    My experience is that reconstructive surgery is deteriorating. Plastic surgeons are now learning to do cosmetic procedures, rather than reconstructive. I have a genetic defect with my eyelids, and had three surgeries as a child. Now decades later, I could use additionaladvanced reconstructive surgery to give my eyes a more reasonable appearance.

    Eyes are very important to our facial expressions, and although my friends think I look lovely, strangers sometimes do an unpleasant double-take when they see me.

    So I wanted to give it another shot, figuring reconstruction has improved since I was a poor child receiving free care.

    The Stanford geneticist recommended a Stanford specialist and I went to see him. The waiting room was filled with literature about "eye lifts" for regular, aging people. I consult with the doctor (and I secretly recorded the conversation) and he did his utmost best to talk me out of any surgery at all. I could tell he was floundering.

    I provided him records of what had been done, and suggested w2hat could be done, and made clear that I was not expecting miracles, just a slight improvement would be worth it.

    He called in his senior, and they spent the next four minutes trying to pass the buck and make the other person do the surgery. The way we left it, was they were going to "contact my insurance" and I never heard back, despite sevferal phone calls.

    These were Stanford Medical Center professionals, recommended by the geneticist who deals with birth defects, and THEY only wanted to do normal eyelid lifts. I was so disheartened, I never tried again.


    IMO way too fscking much money is spent on frivolous surgery.

    My story, and I'm too tired to be concise so I'll just... submit it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @06:05AM (#17932228)
    After reading your post I went ahead and re-photoshopped the picture. Obviously she would want to upload the pictures that would illustrate the before-after contrast best. So it's no surprise (no pun intended) that she enhances her 'surprised look' in the second shot be wide opening her eyelids, which more than anything gives it the unnatural look: you can actually see the whole of both her pupils (which you usually don't see on people with normal expressions), and there's no mention of 'eye lid reduction'.

    So, here's the version with an adjusted face length [] and I also did one with a less surprised look [] (crudely copied over the eyes from the left).

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.