Wikipedia talk:Medical disclaimer

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Protected edit request on 28 November 2014[edit]

Bad grammar; please fix! The phrase "any of the articles" must be treated as a singular subject. Replace "are" with "is" as shown below.


"however, no warranty whatsoever is made that any of the articles are accurate."

must be changed to this:

"however, no warranty whatsoever is made that any of the articles is accurate."

Thank you,

Hordaland (talk) 13:07, 28 November 2014 (UTC)

Pictogram voting comment.svg Note: It is correct in its current form based on its associations. It is singular in relationship to "warranty" which is why it is "no warranty whatsoever is mad that any of the articles" - it is plural in regards to "accurate" which is why it is "any of the articles are accurate." I will say that "whatsoever" doesn't add anything to the value of the sentence and should be removed to any admin that reviews this request. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 19:22, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
Not done: My gut feeling was to decline this request last night when I noticed it on my watchlist, but I couldn't put my finger on why ... "any of the articles is accurate" just didn't sound right to me. I've therefore declined this request thanks to your comments, @Technical 13:, but have removed "whatsoever" from the sentence as suggested. Graham87 03:23, 29 November 2014 (UTC)

RFC for deprecation of this policy[edit]

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
This is a strange request. Legally, Wikipedia may not give medical advice. Anybody using Wikipedia in order to do so is skating on extremely thin ice, unless their advice is always, and only, to consult a registered medical practitioner. In as much as there is a status quo here, it is the Wikimedia Foundation's responsibility to assess it and change it if necessary. There is certainly no consensus here for any change to existing practice. Guy (Help!) 22:55, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

This RFC also applies to:

Per recent discussions at WT:RD it seems clear that this policy does not have consensus. See for example this recent discussion or discussions here. Wikipedia policy should reflect consensus, and it is clear that there is no consensus to support the prohibition against giving medical advice. I am asking for an RFC to deprecate this policy, and related pages, including Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice. For this reason, I propose that our rules reflect the desire of the community: that these pages be marked historical, and that these policies, pages, and templates be deprecated. I don't really care personally one way or the other, but if the community doesn't support this policy, it should be deprecated. If the community does support this policy, then we should enforce it. We shouldn't have a situation where a policy is on the books without consensus. --Jayron32 16:31, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Support deprecating the medical advice policy[edit]

Support retaining the medical advice policy[edit]

  1. The role of Wikipedia is to inform, not to advise or advocate. This is a founding principle of the encyclopedia. Any departure from it would be undermine the neutrality of all our articles, medical or not. Peter coxhead (talk) 16:54, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  2. Contrary to what the nom/intro says, I don't think it is at all clear that there is any issue with this policy, although defining "advice" will cause questions. But we should keep the policy, bearing in mind "The medical information provided on Wikipedia is, at best, of a general nature..." as a guideline for deciding what is advice. Johnbod (talk) 17:02, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  3. Offering medical advice via Wikipedia might, in some jurisdictions, expose WMF and/or users to litigation; I wouldn't dream of disabling this Medical Disclaimer without a direct and explicit request from WMF Legal. In any case, medical advice should never be offered by anyone other than a medically-trained professional. ☺ · Salvidrim! ·  17:04, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  4. The problem is not the rule, it's disagreement over what constitutes a request for medical advice and what constitutes giving medical advice (or other types of professional advice). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:27, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  5. This Medical disclaimer is entirely appropriate and is independent of the nominator's concerns of how this policy should be applied to questions on the Reference Desks which might be interpreted as requests for medical advice. (E.g., should such questions be deleted outright or is it permissible to respond with referenced information about the general subject without actually giving explicit advice?) That discussion belongs on the Reference Desk's discussion page, where it is ongoing. -- ToE 17:31, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  6. I think we had a slight consensus here, and I hope this stays. Condensing policies would be great. I admit there was never a strong consensus at any point. IBE (talk) 17:41, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  7. I would argue that questions should not be removed, the problem is with the giving of medical advice, specifically, let us remove answers that contain any, and retain those that, simply, provide information of a medical nature. The only solid case for removal, in my opinion, would be when there is no charitable interpretation that could reasonably be answered with sourced medical information, or when the question is so very blatant that there it contains no general sense to respond to. I believe that it is a far less contentious matter to determine if a single answer is giving advice than if a question is requesting it; and there have been several cases where the issue was not with any answer given (as in all of the answers were only informative), but only with the phrasing of the question - in other words, some disputes may have been over situations in which no advice was being given, or likely to have been given. --To be fully clear, I see no issue with saying we don't give advice when a question is in the vicinity of asking for it, but only that we shouldn't remove it nor answers that do not give advice.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 18:28, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  8. The only advice we should be giving is what a librarian would give out - pointers to articles and reliable sources. --NeilN talk to me 19:31, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  9. Even if a request for medical advice is actually answered by a user who is a medical professional, they should not do so in Wikipedia's voice. It's not our role to give specific medical advice. Referring requests for general information to appropriate articles is fine, but diagnosing over the internet is something that probably shouldn't be done at all, and especially not by non-professional volunteers at Wikipedia. There may be a fine line but we should err on the side of caution. The disclaimer and the guideline seem to be just fine as they are. Ivanvector (talk) 20:15, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  10. Medical advice is a highly-regulated activity in most jurisdictions. Let's just not go there. Stuartyeates (talk) 21:49, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  11. Even if the discussion that sparked this RFC represented some kind of consensus to abandon the longstanding Reference Desk guideline against providing medical advice (which I do not believe that it does), that would have nothing to do with the Medical Disclaimer, which should clearly stay in any case. --Steve Summit (talk) 22:12, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  12. Agree with User:NeilN. We should provide links to sources per WP:V and WP:MEDRS Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 22:35, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  13. Agree the current policy on any professional (licensed/regulated) advice is fine. No matter where one draws the line, short of Caligula or Jefferson, there are bound to be editors on either side. (Neutral as to regarding deletion/hatting/contumely/OP blocking, as this is always going to be a matter for discussion.) Rules don't enforce themselves. μηδείς (talk) 04:19, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
  14. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 05:07, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
  15. Agree with User:NeilN --Tom (LT) (talk) 07:21, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
  16. This is one of the few policies that represent actual legal issues. If you give someone medical advice at RD, they may actually be ablke to sue Wikipedia or you - and this must be avoded. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 03:56, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
  17. As User:Stuartyeates says above, medical advice is a highly-regulated activity in most jurisdictions. Let's just not go there. And even if it wasn't, it would be inappropriate to do so: encyclopedias exist to provide general information, not specific advice. -- The Anome (talk) 20:10, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
  18. I don't want to be sued or prosecuted because someone thinks that my edit (or my inaction) constitutes medical advice. More importantly, I don't someone to harm their health. We should keep the Wikipedia:Medical disclaimer. The reference desk guideline and the Kainaw criteria look fine too, if a little restrictive, and the template looks harmless. They are not related to the disclaimer. --Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 14:58, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
  19. As per Salvidrim!. (It's a nice legal precaution and is more WMF's call than ours.) Jason Quinn (talk) 05:38, 4 April 2015 (UTC)
  20. per Peter coxhead and Salvidrim. Chris Troutman (talk) 13:26, 4 April 2015 (UTC)
  21. For pretty much the same reasons as everyone else. If for no other reason, people should not misconstrue what they see on Wikipedia as medical advice. NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 01:15, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
  22. Support, with a caveat. We must distinguish between is and ought (a distinction that often gets missed in Wikipedia discussions about policies and guidelines). Be clear that what we write isn't intended and shouldn't be used as medical advice, but recognise that there really are people who will still treat it as medical advice anyway. The medical disclaimer should never be used to wave away opportunities to fix quality problems. bobrayner (talk) 18:43, 8 April 2015 (UTC)


  1. --Jayron32 16:30, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  2. I am not sure that there is a medical advice policy. I am fairly sure that this template is not the "medical advice policy", so I think that this RfC is misplaced. Even if there were a medical advice policy, and it were deprecated, then this template and page might still be useful. Maybe Jayron32 as the proposer can write a medical advice policy so that people can comment on retaining or deprecating it, or maybe Wikipedia is better without a medical advice policy. Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:50, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Object to this RfC[edit]

  1. I Object to this RfC on procedural grounds.
Firstly, it asks about a "policy" when the real targets are an editing guideline that only applies to the Reference Desks, an essay in userspace, and a template that cites no policies.
Secondly, it only allows two choices -- deprecating or maintaining Wikipedia:Medical disclaimer -- and does not ask to, say, turn Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice into a supplemental essay such as WP:BRD, WP:CHILD, WP:CREEP, or WP:BPCOI. Another option that was not presented for a !vote is to create an actual policy (policy, not disclaimer) on this that applies to all of Wikipedia.
I don't think a single person wants to deprecate Wikipedia:Medical disclaimer, nor do I think that there has ever been even a tiny consensus against it, but I also don't think that the forgone conclusion of this RfC will in any way address a single problem on the Reference Desks. --Guy Macon (talk) 21:30, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

2. Time for a snow close: I think this request was mistaken. The responses are overwhelmingly in favor of the status quo. I see from the request that some reference desk editors wish to provide medical information in response to a borderline request for advice, but I don't see that as disputing the disclaimer itself. The disclaimer has been linked from the general disclaimer since 2005 without dispute. --Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 13:19, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

I'm officially neutral on the matter, I just want to have community clarification one way or the other so people are not confused about how to deal with these situations. --Jayron32 16:30, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Can someone tell me the status of the Medical Disclaimer, ie. Wikipedia:Medical_disclaimer? I can't edit it, so I thought it came from above, ie. Wikimedia. Then we have no business changing it. It is Jimbo's deal. The separate page, Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Guidelines/Medical_advice, is our own space, and isn't about indemnifying Wikimedia. They have their own lawyers for that, so please don't start thinking this has anything to do with saving the foundation. Ping Jimbo or one of their lawyers if you are worried, but it's their business. We are about avoiding doing harm, so no one wants to give out amateurish advice that will be taken seriously, we're just looking for the best way to avoid risk whilst answering questions and avoiding tension. IBE (talk) 17:37, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

If it came from Wikimedia, why should we be pinging Jimbo and why would it still be primarily Jimbo's deal now? Nil Einne (talk) 17:56, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
I've brought this up, and asked this, multiple times: how is a disclaimer related to policy? I am willing to admit I'm wrong if I am grossly misunderstanding the term "disclaimer", or misreading it, but the Medical Disclaimer does not, in any sense, appear to be saying "You may not give medical advice", but "Do not construe what you read as medical advice, we don't intend it to be, it is not such in any legally meaningfully way and, thus, you are in error, and at your risk, should you so take it." In other words, if someone reads a medical article, does what they read in it, suffers as a result, they can't sue, it's their fault, the article was not intended as advice, nor should it have been taken as such. Anyway, my point: what does the disclaimer, aimed at readers, have to do with policy about, and definitions of, medical advice on the RD? I don't see the connection. (Note the language of the disclaimer, it is not aimed at people editing, it is aimed at people reading and seems, pretty clearly, a legal protection rather than a policy.)Phoenixia1177 (talk) 18:10, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
WP:MEDMOS says " Do not address the reader directly. Ensure that your writing does not appear to offer medical advice." with a link to the disclaimer. The validity (legally and morally) of the disclaimer would also be compromised if there were, say, a policy saying that some advice ;;could;; be given. Johnbod (talk) 21:05, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your reply, but I wasn't suggesting "The disclaimer doesn't forbid giving advice, therefore we ought", but, instead, that a disclaimer, by its nature is not a policy, thus, has no place in this discussion of policy - in other words: we are citing the equivalent of a "Do Not Try This at Home" warning, why? We actually have policies, and other such, it would make a lot more sense to refine those and deal with those, as opposed to discussing and citing something that is not such. This, honestly, isn't a discussion of "Give advice"/"Don't give advice" - or, if it is, that's just foolish, and we're wasting our time - it should be a question of what constitutes advice, and at what stage is that line crossed -- and that, again, is something a disclaimer does not address (whatever medical advice maybe, the disclaimer stands to assert that it isn't being given in a specific sense, that is all, a "you can't sue" sticker doesn't elucidate anything and, personally, it seems a sham to cite it (which I've seen done multiple times, in multiple places)). The only reason I can see to bring it up would be if we were trying to argue medical advice could be given (and, even then, we don't speak for the people it protects, so it's still a bit gray that it would be the most salient point against doing such, anyway). In short, unless this is the most absurd RFC ever - as in, literally, if it is asking if we should just go all out for lawsuits - I fail to see what role it plays in anything, save as a red herring.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 21:52, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Phoenixia. The Reference Desk guideline which says that respondents may not provide medical advice has very little to do with this disclaimer, which says that nothing you read on Wikipedia should be construed as medical advice. (It's unfortunately true that these two concepts, though distinct, are popularly conflated.) --Steve Summit (talk) 22:05, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
I also think that Phoenixia is on the right track. The interesting question is whether "I have a fever, what should I do?" should be met with unwelcoming responses like blanking the question, or whether it should be met with informative responses, like "I can't give you any medical advice, but maybe you would be interested in reading the encyclopedia article on Fever." WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:27, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • The general issue is that a disclaimer does not indemnify the disclaiment if the same regularly violates the spirit of the disclaimer. In other words, a disclaimer saying "nothing stated here should be construed as medical advice" will indemnify the project if someone should claim in court that they ate crocus bulbs because they had cancer, and wikipedia mentioned that the chemotherapeutic agent colchicine was present in crocus bulbs. But if we regularly go around telling people that doing X is good for their health issue, then the disclaimer would have no weight because we ourselves had abrogated it. For this reason we should police ourselves, rather than having some hierarchy police us or shut us down entirely. μηδείς (talk) 21:07, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Right, I guess, that's not really my point, though. Setting aside that the disclaimer neither defines medical advice (nor ought it) nor does it give any effective procedure for handling anything (nor should it) - As I keep stressing, there is no serious, wide supported, proposal to start giving, what could unambiguously be called, medical advice. The disputes are over what medical advice is, at the border, and what to do with questions that may request it (answer them without advice and mention we can't give it -vs- remove them). In short, nothing that actually comes up, nor what inspired this RFC, has anything to do with the medical disclaimer - further, the only situation in which the disclaimer would be pertinent would be a proposal to open up a section called "Free Healthcare from Dr.Wikipedia". As long as we are talking about disclaimers, and other such, we are avoiding the actual matter at hand, the real difficult one, which is finding a reasonable way to deal with medical subjects.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 03:46, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree here with Medeis - the disclaimer isn't absolute. It can reasonably be defended as saying that any content in an article shouldn't be taken as medical advice, but if you ask a question which blatantly asks for advice, no disclaimer could protect you from all such claims. There's a difference between exposing the public to a medical opinion, where they may choode to bring it up with their medical professionals; and actually appearing to be that medical profrssional. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 04:05, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
What exactly, though, is your point? I have yet to see waves of people arguing that we start pretending to be health professionals, or that we open up "Dr.Wikipedia's Corner". The problem isn't that there is some situation related to medical advice and our actions with regards to which the disclaimer would be relevant, the point is that no one seems to be seriously pushing for those situations (nor has anyone doing so gotten any type of support from anyone but themselves). It's like saying "But Free Speech is in the constitution!" whenever someone tells you to shut up - sure, it is possible that the person telling you to shut up is the government and it is a free speech issue, but, in reality, you're probably not looking at things right. To reiterate, one last time: no one appears to be suggesting we pretend to be doctors, or that we start trying to hand out diagnoses; some people are suggesting we handle things differently than we do, but these ways do not appear, in a nontrivial fashion, to violate the protection that this disclaimer provides to WMF, meaning that a discussion of the disclaimer isn't really salient to anything actually under debate (no more so than discussing free speech is salient to people's reactions when you mutter offensive things to them).Phoenixia1177 (talk) 08:50, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I am with Phoenixia1177 here. I need someone to explain to me who might benefit, and how, if the disclaimer is deleted as the RFC suggests. Is it Wikipedians, readers, the WMF, or those who post enquiries at the Reference Desk? Until then I can only reiterate my "support retaining the medical advice policy" and my request to close the RFC. I don't understand why someone who doesn't "care personally one way or another" can post a proposal, and expect the community to spend time debating a proposal that hasn't yet received one statement in support of it. @Jayron32: why did you open this RFC, and why did you bundle it with a guideline, a template and an essay from a former user? --Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 13:27, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Because policy follows practice, and at places where medical advice is likely to come up (WP:RDS for example) users give it freely with no regard for the policy, and whenever another user tries to bring this policy up, or enforce it as written, they get reprimanded and told they aren't reflecting consensus. This RFC is designed to judge community consensus on the policy, because it isn't being followed in the places where it comes up regularly, and if consensus is the policy shouldn't be followed, we should change that. If the community at large thinks the policy should be followed we should follow it. --Jayron32 14:14, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
The disclaimer is an instruction to readers, not writers. Those deleting answers should just carry on doing so, and ignore those reprimanding them. This page has consensus: it was posted in 2005 and has not been challenged since. If someone says it doesn't have consensus, they would be raising a straw man. --Hroðulf (or Hrothulf) (Talk) 14:58, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Protected edit request on 6 August 2015[edit]

On line 3, change "{{shortcut|WP:MEDICAL}}" to "{{shortcut|WP:MEDICAL|WP:NOMEDICAL}}", to include another existing shortcut to this disclaimer. Ivanvector 🍁 (talk) 23:02, 6 August 2015 (UTC)

Edit request 20 February 2016[edit]

Add {{pp|small=yes}}. Anarchyte (work | talk) 09:22, 20 February 2016 (UTC)

 Donexaosflux Talk 19:31, 20 February 2016 (UTC)