I am not a doctor.  I never played one on TV.  I have never claimed to be a medical expert on anything important.

Just because I’m not a doctor doesn’t mean people don’t still seek me out for expert medical advice. 

Some of those requests are genuine.  Others are only sloppy mistakes. 

Here’s a recent example from my slop file with the names changed to protect the sloppy.

Hey Dr Boles!

I left a message for XXXX this morning, but haven’t heard from her. Thought she might be off for the 4th. Anyway, the reason I was calling was a couple of things. Since my last visit with you, I have been having a few issues that concern me a little.

1). I know we talked about my weight gain and the effort to eat less/exercise more and to try coming off the XXXX (sp?). Since that visit, I have gained 5 pounds. I have tried eating less and walking 3-4 miles 4-5 times a week. I quit taking the meds and the only medication I am taking is the generic XXXX and the XXXX Dr XXXX gave me starting last Friday.

2). Since last Wednesday, my ankles have started swelling every afternoon. Feels just like it does when I have been on a long flight – swollen ankles and prickly feeling like someone is sticking needles in my ankles/shins. Legs kinda hurt/ache all day long – sometimes sharp/sometimes prickly pains off and on.

3). My middle and lower back has been hurting. When I wake up in the morning, it hurts so bad I dread getting out of bed. Dull/constant pain during the day.

4). Have been having some pain in my lower abdomen. Thought it might be female related, but not sure given some of the other things going on. Wondering if my back hurting is causing my lower stomach to hurt or vice versa.

5). On top of that, my left eye has been twitching since last Wednesday.

Whew! Is this just part of turning XXXX? If it’s just life – I’ll learn to live with it, but if it’s something I need to check into – just wanted to know.

Sorry to bother you by email. Just thought it would make it easier for you to respond at your convenience. If you need to call me, my cell number is XXXX.

The reason I am sharing this poor woman’s email with you is to warn you against sharing intimate details with total strangers on the internet.

She found an email address of mine somewhere and it seems — wrongly — assumed I was her doctor and she sent me that “more than I needed to know” email in addition to sending it to what appears to be her doctor’s actual office email address.

We live in dangerous times. 

People can steal identities and pose as others with the flick of a wrist on a keyboard and a finger depression on a mouse button.  I will not use this woman’s information to exploit her true identity in any way.  Her original email is deleted.

You cannot assume you know what you think you know on the internet. 

You must be 100% certain that the email address you decide to use is legitimate and correct.  Send a generic inquiry first:  “Is this Dr. Boles’ email address?” 

If you get a negative response, or no response at all, don’t send detailed, personal, information that can be tracked back to you that will inevitably wend its way onto the internet and into the Google cache


  1. A good lesson. Keep your privates to yourself. Don’t email personal stuff. Do it in person or on the phone with your doc. Email is too easy to goof.

  2. You’d be surprised what people send around in email, Anne! I get all sorts of private stuff emailed to me by mistake.

  3. Maybe it’s these kinds of people that get scammed on the internet? Is Spam intended for these sorts?

  4. There are some naive people on the internet, Anne. I guess they are everywhere, but the web makes this mistakes even more pronounced and everlasting, I think.

  5. Interesting, David – people don’t even bother to check whether their email reach to the right hand?
    Foolishness or just being callous?

  6. Katha —
    People are careless. They don’t check. They don’t care to check. They just assume. It’s a bit pitiful, really. There’s no reason my email address would have been in her address book. I do not know her. So it was an obvious “on purpose” error of her using an unknown email address and assuming its authenticity instead of checking first.

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