Dentist asks Yelp to take down negative comments; Threatens to sue patient

Robert Lee had a sore tooth in 2010 so he went to Dr. Stacy Makhnevich in New York.

ABC News reports that prior to treatment Lee was asked to sign several papers, inlucding one on Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy. The agreement required him not to publish any commentary or write something that would discredit the dentist.

After the treatment, Lee received a bill amounting to $4,766. He requested the dentist’s office to forward the paperwork to his insurance company. The office, however, sent it to the wrong company. As a result, Lee asked for the forms himself so that he can submit it to the right company. The dentist refused to hand over the papers and referred him to a third party that required five percent of the total bill for its services.

Annoyed with his experience, Lee headed to Yelp and DoctorBase and wrote negative comments.

Dr. Stacy Makhnevich did not take the negative comments lightly. The dentist sent Lee a letter demanding that he delete the post and reminding him of the agreement that he signed early on or face breach of contract. The dentist also asked Yelp and DoctorBase to take down the comments. Both sites refused to comply to the doctor’s demand.

Now the doctor is saying that she owns the “harsh words” that Lee wrote. She went on to send Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the comments remain online.

Paul Levy, Lee’s lawyer, commented:

“We are now seeking a declaratory judgment from the judge to show that my client was not doing anything wrong. Doctors and dentists are expected to behave in an ethical manner, and to impose this sort of requirement on people who are having emergencies is unethical.”

Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center said:

“This is a form of bullying, and it’s absurd that this could possibly be an enforceable contract. It infringes upon free speech and you can’t just have that waived away on a silence contract. This doctor is overreacting and attempting to muzzle patients.”

If you’re Robert lee, would you take down the negative comments that you wrote? Would you sign such kind of agreement prior to getting treatment?