We have talked aboutand this is a development on that theme. Increasingly I am being approached by doctors who have had to face abuse on social media by “moaning minnies” who are disgruntled by some perceived slight and choose to complain on social media rather than dealing with the issue face to face. Whilst some of the complaints may have some validity, many do not, and the complaints could range from tardiness at appointments to rage about medical aid refunds (which are clearly out of the medical professional’s control).

But what the “moaning minnies” may not know is that the medical professional may not be allowed to respond to the complaints in any event and may be barred by ethical considerations and the rules of the Health Professions Council of South Africa from replying to these complaints. This may be the same in instances where the public complains about attorneys or advocates or any other professional person that is subject to the rules and ethics of a governing body.

It seems then that the complainer may not get the satisfaction that they would like by baring all on social media and naming and shaming a doctor or lawyer there. It would probably be a lot more practical and would yield better results if they made any complaints to a professional body that would actually be able to deal with the matter and would demand a response from the person concerned. Many professionals rely on their reputation and will be forced to go to great lengths to defend them. The public should be warned that complaining about issues in a way that could amount to defamation may force the professional to defend themselves in court which will be expensive for all concerned. Often a simple complaint to the source or a complaint to the appropriate council will go far further than a rant on social media.