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Liability from Wikipedia?

On Monday afternoon, word got around on Facebook and, I’m told, on Chicago sports radio, that someone had altered the Wikipedia page of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones to include the obviously false line, “His dad raped him every night after school.” (Click here for a screen grab.)

Within minutes of the publicity, someone had fixed the page. But before that happened, I mentioned in a Facebook discussion that this is additional evidence that Wikipedia should never be the primary source for any kind of research. But people rely on Wikipedia all the time when they look up information online.

Another participant in that discussion said that I should have corrected the information as soon as I had seen it. “I suspect there will be a case before long when a health professional spots an error on wikipedia and doesn’t correct it. A patient then takes notes of or acts on the information & the health professional could then be liable for not correcting the error – a part of professional practice?” this person said.

(Dramatic pause as a chill runs down your spine.)

Yeah, what happens when a patient gets wrong information from Wikipedia that his or her physician/nurse/family member saw but didn’t bother to fix? Medical error? Malpractice liability?

Has anyone ever thought this through? Am I reading too much into this or is this a real concern?

December 13, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

How not to pitch me

As promised in my previous post, here is an example of a terribly misguided story pitch that I received last week. I can be rather mean to people who waste my time. Consider yourself warned (insert evil laugh here).

First, the pitch.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 7, 2011

SCA Urges Obama Administration to End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives


CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or lauren@secular.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Secular Coalition for America stands with the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) in calling for a transparent review process in how the executive branch’s faith-based offices are handling religious discrimination claims in the hiring of government-funded positions by religious organizations.

The religious discrimination in hiring exemption for religious groups is allowed as part of a multibillion dollar federal program called the faith-based initiative, and it is now active in 14 federal agencies and departments including USDA, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, EPA, SBA, USAID, Corporation for National and Community Services, and DOJ. Today CARD sent a letter to each of these agencies, calling for a transparent review process  of how religious discrimination in hiring complaints are addressed.

“In almost 3 years, the Obama administration has done little to address the consequences of allowing religious organizations to discriminate in hiring with taxpayer dollars, “ said Amanda Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition. “We are asking for these agencies and offices to show us how they are handling these cases.”

Within the faith-based initiative, religious organizations may accept taxpayer funds in order to provide government-contracted social services, such as a soup kitchen or foster care, and use those funds to hire only those who also practice the same faith, whether or not the job itself has any religious function. An otherwise qualified individual who applies to a faith-based organization for a job may be rejected solely because he or she practices the wrong religion or has no religion at all.

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to restore anti-discrimination protections and end policies put in place by the George W. Bush Administration that permit the federal government to subsidize employment discrimination on the basis of religion. More than two years later, this issue has not been adequately addressed and the administration states it will make determinations on religious discrimination on a “case-by-case” basis without offering specifics about how individual cases will be addressed.

In July, Knief pressed President Obama at a town hall meeting about his failed campaign promise to end employment discrimination by faith-based organizations that accept taxpayer funding.

“Religious freedom is an individual right—it does not belong to an organization,” Knief said. “These groups that choose to use religious discrimination in hiring and other ways are imposing their ideology on others which means it cannot be defined as freedom.”

In particular, the CARD letter sent today calls for general transparency in the review process – including information on the cases previously or currently under review under this mechanism– as well as an explanation of review standards and protocols.

In 2007, the last year for which comprehensive numbers are available, $2.2 billion in federal grants were awarded to faith-based organizations by 11 federal agencies. That is about 11 percent of the $20.4 billion in federal grants that were awarded. By allowing these organizations to operate with tax dollars outside the federal guidelines that secular organizations are held to, the government is subsidizing religious discrimination.

“Religious and secular nonprofit groups should be treated the same under the law,” Knief said. “Taxpayer dollars should not be used to endorse any kind of discrimination.”

The Secular Coalition for America is a 501 c(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of ten diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.

####

And now, here is the e-mail thread that followed.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 8:44 AM, Neil Versel <nversel@gmail.com> wrote:

What exactly is the IT angle here?
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <lauren@secular.org>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 10:28:17 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

Hi Neil,

The list is populated based on the things you’ve written about in the past– perhaps you’ve written about a government administration that was named in the press release?

We apologize for any confusion or inaccuracies. If you wouldn’t mind forwarding the press release to the appropriate person on your team, we would be very grateful.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 10:58 AM, Neil Versel <nversel@gmail.com> wrote:
I don’t have a team. Do your homework. You clearly have no idea what I cover.
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <lauren@secular.org>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:10:17 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

As I mentioned in my last email, this list is not compiled by me personally. If you’d like to be removed, there is a link at the bottom of the original email you received.

Have a nice day!

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 11:11 AM, Neil Versel <nversel@gmail.com> wrote:
So it’s on me to remove myself? Oh for f— sake!
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <lauren@secular.org>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:15:27 -0500
To:
<nversel@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

I’m sorry this is frustrating to you. Let me explain: Meltwater is a company that compiles lists of journalists based on what they cover. When you go to send out a press release, you tell them what you’re looking for and it compiles a list based on the terms you input and sends it. You probably were placed on the list due to something you mentioned in an article, and it make the mistake of thinking it’s something you cover on an ongoing basis.

I wouldn’t worry about removing yourself per se– this seems to be a mistake, but chances are, other lists they compile have been fine and that’s why you’ve never had this problem before.

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM, Neil Versel <nversel@gmail.com> wrote:
And you’re too damn lazy to verify. Frankly, it’s insulting that you’ve never read a word I’ve written.
From: Lauren Anderson Youngblood <lauren@secular.org>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 11:20:54 -0500
Subject: Re: SCA to Obama Administration: End Religious Discrimination Through Faith-Based Initiatives

There are thousands of people on each list. You may be upset, but it’s inappropriate and unprofessional for you to sling personal insults at me. If you want to be removed from the list, you know who to contact, please don’t email me again. Have a nice day. Goodbye.

These aren’t personal insults. They are professional insults, thank you very much. I criticized her work, not her character. In any case, I hate those media directories that lazy PR people rely on to target their pitches, and I do find it insulting when someone pitches me without ever having read a word I’ve written.

In the words of a certain lazy PR person, have a nice day. Goodbye. :)

I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.