There have been quite a few medical help related questions recently, e.g., Clicking and clicking noise with bench presses. And I, for one, have a problem with this.

  1. They cannot be answered the way a person wants. Any answer given here might be bad for their health, and in some cases, even deadly.
  2. Most of them are too specific, and would probably not help most of the users that come to the site
  3. More often than not they call for a discussion, not a concise answer.

So, what I'm thinking is: Maybe we should create a new close option? It could say something like this:

This question has been closed due to its medical nature, as it cannot be answered correctly without discussion and/or extensive medical knowledge.

Also, could we create a sort of standard disclaimer for the more broad medical questions? Something like:

Standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor, therefore my answer should not be taken literally, nor can I be liable for any damage caused from acting on my answer.

The disclaimer is not really an issue, per se, but it could be a nice thing to have, instead of reinventing it each time a medical question pops up.

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+1 @Janis Peisenieks : great question –  bguiz Mar 14 '11 at 23:45
    
The close reason would just be off-topic @Janis, no need for a new close reason. As for the disclaimer, we shouldn't be giving advice that needs one... –  Ivo Flipse Mar 15 '11 at 10:58
    
So, from what you are saying, we should just ignore any question that would be semi medical related, and would require such a disclaimer to show the person, that the answers should be taken with a grain of salt? –  Janis Peisenieks Mar 15 '11 at 12:27
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If you have a medical condition it's your own responsibility to take anything you read on the internet with a grain of salt. I might be a kinesiologist, but I'm not a medical doctor –  Ivo Flipse Mar 15 '11 at 14:00
    
Point well made :) –  Janis Peisenieks Mar 15 '11 at 14:19
    
In response to @Ivo Flipse' comment on my answer below, I've created a related question, focused on the FAQ rather than close criteria: meta.fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/133 –  Argalatyr Jul 10 '11 at 15:31
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Going back to your initial three categories:

  1. They cannot be answered the way a person wants. Any answer given here might be bad for their health, and in some cases, even deadly.

    In this case, I'd be likely to close it as either off topic or "Not a Real Question".

  2. Most of them are too specific, and would probably not help most of the users that come to the site

    Close as too local.

  3. More often than not they call for a discussion, not a concise answer.

    Close as subjective or argumentative.

Do you have examples that fall outside the existing close rationales?

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A fourth category: answer is helpful and informative. This should not be closed, because it would be beneficial to many. However, it can be dangerous to a small number of those reading it, because it is impossible for the OP or the answerers to know the medical status of every reader. Hence my advocacy for adding disclaimers meta.fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/70/medical-questions/… –  bguiz Mar 15 '11 at 22:54
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This question, and others like it, is actually quite broad and should encompass this entire site - that is almost all of the advice given on this site will have some sort of medical implication.

Great example:
Someone extols the virtues of long distance running in an answer to a question. Someone is at home, reading this advice, Let's say he is a male over 45, and has a family history of coronary disease. Any gym instructor or personal trainer would advise him to get a clearance certificate or letter from a doctor before commencing on a physical training program that involves high impact cardio (that includes long distance running).

OP's and the answerers have no way of knowing the medical conditions of the people reading them. However, any fitness advice given does require knowledge of said medical conditions. Hence I agree that disclaimers are quite necessary.

  • Should that answer be there?
    • Yes
  • Should that answer have included a disclaimer
    • Yes, but what if the author omits it at his own discretion?
  • Should this site enforce some sort of way for such disclaimers to appear automatically?
    • Yes

For the last question, my own suggestion is that:

  • All questions come with a medical disclaimer that is automatically appended.
  • Users of the site can then vote to remove the disclaimer much in the same way that they vote to close a question.
  • By default all questions include disclaimers, unless later removed - better to err on the side of caution
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+1 . I would suggest the disclaimer be appended right after the question, before the answers, instead of the question itself. That would force anyone to read the disclaimer, but avoid of it being EVERYWHERE, which would happen if it was appended to every answer. –  Janis Peisenieks Mar 15 '11 at 7:47
    
+1 @Janis Peisenieks : Definitely, avoid clutter cause by repetition. –  bguiz Mar 15 '11 at 22:57
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I would add a category to the effect: "Answering the question requires the answerer to make or infer a diagnosis, i.e. the practice of medicine".

This is one reason (there are many) such questions are not allowed on the Wikipedia reference desks.

I really think this is an issue for this site, and (IMHO) one cannot simply assume anyone who looks for medical advice on the Internet is a fool (their foolishness would not excuse our own).

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There is more discussion of this here –  Argalatyr Jul 10 '11 at 2:11
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Very good point @Argalatyr, I think we should start a meta question discussing how to change our FAQ to make clear what questions we absolutely don't want on our site. –  Ivo Flipse Jul 10 '11 at 9:15
    
Okay @Ivo Flipse - done: meta.fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/133 –  Argalatyr Jul 10 '11 at 15:30
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