In Practice

Ethical and legal perspectives on the medical practitioners use of social media

Brenda Kubheka


Use of social media has increased exponentially throughout the world. Social media provides a platform for building social and professional relationships that can be used by all, including healthcare professionals. Alongside the benefits of creating networks and spreading information wider and faster than is possible with traditional communication channels, however, it presents ethical and legal challenges. For health professionals, it poses a threat to confidentiality and privacy owed to patients, colleagues and employers. It is vital for health professionals to acknowledge that the same ethical and legal standards apply both online and offline, and that they are accountable to professional bodies and the law for their online activities. This article seeks to explore the ethical and legal pitfalls facing health professionals using social media platforms. Importantly, it seeks to create awareness about the cyberpsychology phenomenon called the ‘online disinhibition effect’, responsible for lowering restraint during online activities.

Author's affiliations

Brenda Kubheka, Health IQ Consulting, Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Social media; Professionalism; Defamation; Violations; Moral and legal obligations

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(5):386-389. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i5.12047

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-04-25
Date published: 2017-04-25

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