Tuesday, 26 February 2008


A few days ago, I gave a general anaesthetic to a young man called Andrew who was having his hernia repaired by the general surgeons. I remember him very well, he was very pleasant and amiable and in the anaesthetic room, he and I chatted for a bit about how long Rafa Benitez was likely to keep his job at Liverpool.
It was a routine operation, and everything went as it should. I went to see him after the operation and he said his was feeling a bit tender, but nothing that a couple of co-codamol tablets couldn’t help with.

The day before yesterday, I logged onto Facebook and I had a message from an “Andrew M” It read:

Thank you for looking after me the other week. I hope you are well

and Andrew M had requested to be my Facebook friend.

I was really touched. It was really nice that he’d taken the time to find out who I was and then written me a thank you message. However, it left me in a bit of a quandary.

Should I accept his friend request or not?

I mulled it over over dinner and then I decided that, pleasant as Andrew M is, I don’t know him. He’s not my “friend” although, I’m sure we could be under different circumstances. And, because I didn’t know him, I didn’t particularly want him looking at pictures of me and my friends or reading what people had been writing about me on my profile.

I clicked “ignore.”

I would have liked to reply to his message with a “Thank-you, I hope you are recovering well” but I knew that if I replied to his message, then the Facebook website would let him see my profile page. I didn’t really want this either, so I clicked “delete.”

Andrew M probably thinks I’m a bit of a fake now and I wish that somehow, I could communicate with him that I was genuinely touched by his message, I just didn’t want him to see the pictures of me from Big Ed’s house party (believe me, they’re not pretty).

What would you have done if you were me?


Anon 1 said...

The same. If you can send him just the one message somehow, without commiting anything, do that. You don't need to explain why you did not accept his invitation, he'll understand.

Be careful with this website though, I hear its founder keeps your info even after you decide not to become a member!

Dan said...

Probably a good call. Is his email address on his profile so you can send him a response and the rationale contained within here without opening up a swath of personal information to him?

I'm really enjoying the blog by the way; stumbled across it the other day whilst browsing an array of medical blogs - you're at least partially responsible for affirming my desire to apply for graduate entry medicine this September... I'm not sure if thats a good thing or not!

The Welsh Pharmacist said...

Facebook should only be used for stalking girls you never had the guts to ask out when you were in school.

Er, so I've been told.

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

You can set your privacy status so that when you send a message to someone who isn't a friend, then they won't be able to see your profile. I've done it before.

I think you made a good call, but I figure writing him a quick thank you would be appropriate.

(Have I commented here before? I don't think so. Hi, I'm Xavier! Love the blog!)

medilogy said...

yes you should do as xavier said. Facebook privacy settings let you control whether he can see your wall..or photos..or whatever part of your profile you don't want him to see..almost every aspect is controllable through those privacy settings because of recent complaints they received from users.

Also - Love the blog, keep it up.

Devil's Advocate said...

Facebooking a patient = possibly opening up a can of career-limiting worms. You made the right decision. Boundaries, caterpillar.

Anonymous said...

That's really inappropriate! I wonder what made him decide to look you up? I know some people like to make themselves feel popular by having lots of 'friends' on their list, but I think that's taking it a bit far...


the little medic said...

I've said it for months - facebook is going to cause all sorts of issues in the future if its use continues. You definitely made the right decision. I'm so very tempted to delete my fb profile.

Barry said...

Am I the only person left in the world who does not have a Facebook or My Space page?

Personally, if I was the patient, I would have wrote a letter to the hospital telling them what a good service you provided. I feel that is a more appropriate thing for a patient to do. I would not track the doctor down they way he did.

Anonymous said...

Like Barry, I find the patient's methods a bit stalker-like. He'll be outside your house next. Why not send a card like normal people do?
Well deleted, Mr Doctor.

Spaniel xx

Hadley said...

I think this is a simple case of you two using Facebook for different things. You use it to keep up with people you already know, and he uses it to establish/build relationships.

If he came and knocked on your door, saying, "I have a tradition of eating breakfast at the homes of people I want to get to know better," are you obligated to let him in? Or is it fair for you to insist that your home (particulalry at breakfast-time!) is your private domain and if he'd like to see you, he should go through appropriate channels?

I think what you did is totally legitimate. Don't feel bad at all.

Michael Anderson said...

Many valid points and I thank you all for them. I've thought about this a little more now and I'm actually quite happy I did what I did

Mousie said...

I actually do want to see the photos from Big Ed's house party... add me!!!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm just catching up with your blog, but wow, seriously inappropriate stalker issues. If as a patient you want to thank someone the way to do it is to contact their workplace, not their private life. I agree with those who've suggested a short note thanking him whilst withholding your profile details. Bendy Girl

Ally said...

I frequently have clients requesting my frienship on face book (I'm a counsellor not a hooker by the way!) and it just screams wrongness... I think you did the right thing, if he'd wanted to thank you he could have done so in a more appropriate setting.

Sunny RN to MD said...

Well, if u wanted to say a small message without him seeing your facebook, u can go into this profile, find his email address and email him.

Nothing wrong with contacting a patient via email. You'll be only exchanging messages.

Anonymous said...


I agree with the previous posts. don't go there.

Worse are opposite sex blonde pts trying to friend you on fb...

to quote oscar london: $40 to lie down in a hotel room, $40k to stan up in a courtroom.


Anonymous said...


I think he just wanted to let u know that he was thankful, and adding you as a friend is just a normal routine for anyone if they like you. I dont think you should reply, i think he just wanted to express his appreciation, which he did. always stay professional. but i do understand why u feel "bad". i would too, however u were his doctor that day, and he should have just said thanks after u treated him anyway lol.

p/s i hope all my patients are like andrew. great guy!

Jo said...

OK - it may be nearly two years after the event, but I was reminded of this post when reading this news item on the Beeb:


Looks like you made the right call :-)
Dr Emma Cuzner, a medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said: "Some doctors have told the MDU [Medical Defence Union] they feel it would be rude not to reply [to Facebook friendship requests], if only to politely refuse, but given that this is not a professional route of communication any correspondence of this sort would clearly stray outside the doctor-patient relationship.

"We are advising members about the importance of keeping relationships with patients on a professional footing."