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Can Web take place of doctor? page 3
Getting medical advice from the Web can be bad for your mental health

Date published: 6/25/2006


Some guidance as to where to go on the Web can be gained from the Web itself. Tom Ferguson M.D. is a senior associate at the Center for Clinical Computing at Harvard Medical School and has written a "Guided Tour to Self-Help Cyberspace." Or, look for the duck logo of quackwatch.org, which provides an expose of many different crank remedies and Web sites.

The Web is good for accessing information. It is good for allowing members of support groups to communicate with one another. A growing trend seems to be providing people help in managing social and psychological problems.

"Often people are more comfortable sharing sensitive information to a computer than to a clinician," said James Carter, who is working with Dartmouth Medical School on a program to help astronauts on protracted missions.

This may be the only option when you're going bonkers in space, but it's the lack of the human touch, the empathy, the emotional support from your computer that is one of its major failings. It seems perverse to claim it is better than consulting a sensitive, caring and hopefully nonjudgmental human being.

So I don't feel my job is too threatened. I fancy that when you come to the office, I'll still be there, not replaced by a computer, but rather correcting the harebrained notions you have picked up from your PC.

DR. PATRICK NEUSTATTER can be reached at
Email: pneustatter@prattmed.com.

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DR. PATRICK NEUSTATTER is a family practitioner with Pratt Medical Center in North Stafford.