A health disclaimer is a legal statement provided to protect a person or entity from liability and potential claims when providing information about medical issues. Health disclaimers commonly appear on sites providing information about health and medicine to make it clear that the site has no responsibility for how people use the information, and they may also appear in other contexts, such as books written by practicing doctors about their work, or medical weblogs. The goal of a health disclaimer is to make sure visitors are aware they are reading information at their own risk.
A typical health disclaimer includes several clauses. It says the information being provided is for information only and is not intended to be used in diagnosis and treatment; people can use it in research as they work with a doctor, in other words, but should not rely on it for diagnostic purposes. In addition, the disclaimer indicates that the information presented is not meant to replace the services of a doctor, and that people should consult a doctor if they have specific medical concerns.
Doctors and other medical professionals may include a health disclaimer on their websites and publications indicating that reading the material does not constitute a professional or therapeutic relationship. This is designed to protect these practitioners from liability, as readers cannot claim to have taken action on the basis of a presumed professional relationship. Health disclaimers also make a point of limiting liability for omissions or inaccurate information; if someone reads, for example, that Symptom X must be present to be diagnosed with Disease Y and takes action on the basis of this, the site that provided the information cannot be held liable if it had a well-written health disclaimer.
Health disclaimers ultimately stress that people with medical problems should see a doctor, and nothing can replace an in-person session with a medical practitioner. These disclaimers are designed to address specific legal concerns, such as worries about people relying on information provided, taking action or failing to take action on the basis of how they read the information, or attempting to treat themselves using the information they find.
Without a health disclaimer, there might be a reluctance to provide medical information, and this could put patients at a disadvantage. Being able to research conditions to learn more about them during the process of diagnosis and treatment can make patients feel less frightened and also provide people with information they can use to generate questions for their care providers. This can help people make informed choices about medical care.