Be prepared to get less and less valuable information on line from professionals since the Supreme Court just ruled that there will be less free speech allowed from professionals on line. According to a Supreme Court decision that was left to stand this week, Veterinarians do NOT have a free speech right to give online advice to pet owners about how to care for a sick animal.
Why should there be any censorship of “occupational speech” as long as the professional ends his or her advice rant with a disclosure that it is suggested that you see a doctor in person before taking any action on this possible advice? To censure professionals is an extreme disservice to the public in general. We should be glad when a expert is willing to offer us possible choices to explore in order to help us with our questions on any subject. Now you can enforce limits on professionals including not just doctors but psychologists, tour guides and even interior designers.
Dr. Ronald Heines, a semiretired veterinarian in Texas, sued to challenge the state law after he was fined for offering advice online. He started a website after retirement and posted articles about caring for pets. Sounds harmless and downright informative to me! Does the Supreme Court prefer ignorant bliss? I understand that where the doctor went wrong was when he took money for his advice on line without a direct examination of the animal. However, the advice, should have been considered as just a suggestion even if he charged for it.
When pet owners contacted him and asked him for help with their sick pets, he began answering questions and offering advice. He charged a flat fee of $58 dollars to those who could afford to pay. He did not prescribe medication and sometimes recommended the owners to take their pet for a physical examination. Should this retired doctor have to take his habits to the Supreme Court on ethical issues when you think of all the more serious problems the Court could be deciding upon? I have no problem with this guy’s little website. It is up to the consumer to decide the right decision to make for their pets, we can’t go around stifling knowledgeable people.
It all started in 2012 when the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners accused him of violating state law by offering advice without having personally examined the animal. Did they feel his new way of offering advice would take a cut out of their way of doing business? Everything is on line now from gossip advice to banking advice. Why are the health professionals biting each other for how to conduct business on the Internet?
The new law “specifically prohibits veterinarians from interacting with animal owners “solely by telephone or electronic means.” He was fined $500 and then he sued alleging the law violated his rights under the First Amendment of free speech. He won before a district judge but lost before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.