J Med Ethics 35:584-586 doi:10.1136/jme.2009.029231
  • Brief report

Medical professionalism in the age of online social networking

  1. J S Guseh II1,
  2. R W Brendel2,
  3. D H Brendel3
  1. 1
    Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2
    Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3
    Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to David H Brendel, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA; dbrendel{at}
  • Received 6 January 2009
  • Revised 15 February 2009
  • Accepted 22 March 2009


The rapid emergence and exploding usage of online social networking forums, which are frequented by millions, present clinicians with new ethical and professional challenges. Particularly among a younger generation of physicians and patients, the use of online social networking forums has become widespread. In this article, we discuss ethical challenges facing the patient–doctor relationship as a result of the growing use of online social networking forums. We draw upon one heavily used and highly trafficked forum, Facebook, to illustrate the elements of these online environments and the ethical challenges peculiar to their novel form of exchange. Finally, we present guidelines for clinicians to negotiate responsibly and professionally their possible uses of these social forums.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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