Where’s Flea?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I recently noticed that one of my favorite medical bloggers, Flea, had completely deleted his blog. There’s nothing there. It’s gone, except for a blank Blogger blog. Apparently, too, Flea’s not alone, as Kevin, MD points out.

I’m going to miss Flea, but I understand why he might have done it. As he had documented in the weeks leading up to the disappearance of his blog, he was being sued for malpractice. Indeed, I was amazed at how honest he had been about some of the pretrial preparations he was undergoing. It was great reading, but probably ill-advised, and I bet that his lawyer put the kibosh on his blog pronto after finding out about it.

All of this puts a bit of a chill in my heart. Even though I blog under a pseudonym, lots of people know who I “really am,” thanks to cranks who were willing to put a lot of effort into to plowing through Usenet postings from the late 1990’s to find some posts where I had (in retrospect) foolishly linked my name with my present ‘nym. Had I been a bit smarter or less oblivious to the lengths to which cranks would go to “out” me, I might never have continued the “Orac” ‘nym into the blogosphere when I first started my blog, thus allowing a means of linking it to my real name. My only consolation was that I know for a fact that it must have taken the first “outer” a lot of work to dig up this information, as until about two years ago the only way to link me to my blog without knowing my “real” name was to plow through ancient Usenet archives from the late 1990’s to find the link between me and my ‘nym.

However, fear of legal threats or HIPAA violations is exactly why I only rarely ever blog about patient encounters anymore. I used to do it a lot, but decided that it was too big a risk. Now I mostly confine myself to commenting on science, alternative medicine, and various non-medical topics that interest me. Even though some of my older posts about patient encounters were heavily altered in order to make it virtually impossible to connect the story with the patient that inspired it, it’s too big a chance to take. If I were to be sued now, an opposing lawyer might be able to try to impeach my personality and embarrass me using some of the sillier things on my blog (the EneMan or Hitler Zombie posts, for example), but he wouldn’t be able to try to dredge up information about how I took care of patients or try to paint me as someone who doesn’t care or violates HIPAA.

Flea, wherever you are, godspeed.