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From: dad (23.243.111.171)
Subject:         The first amendment protections of offering advice
Date: December 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm PST

In this thread http://mipalo.net/cgi-bin/rawer.pl?thread=100044409&mode=lowfi, Steven states: “What you need is to take a multivitamin supplement. Take 2 tablets instead of the recommended one and make sure you are eating a high carb diet, preferably 80/10/10. This will get rid of your depression within a week.”

Doug says that doing this is “illegal” in the US. I disagree with this assessment. We are fortunate to have this thing in the US known as the first amendment. Now, there are limits to free speech, but I feel that Steven is within the law.

It's illegal to act as though you have a medical license when you don't (this is known as “practicing medicine without a license”, and it’s illegal everywhere that I'm aware of). And this makes sense because it's fraudulent. But this is very different than portraying yourself honestly and giving someone your sincere thoughts on a topic. Do you think your mom is breaking the law when she suggests that you “get extra sleep” when you have a cold?

It is also possible to be "sued for providing poor advice". But there are limits to this. For example:

Suppose my friend advises me to dress in a certain way, and I choose to follow her advice. But then I get raped and the rapist says that he raped me because of the clothes I was wearing. Can I then sue my friend for "providing poor advice"?

Or suppose my parents give me poor advice when it comes to which college to attend, or which major to pick. This results in me having poor job prospects and a large amount of debt. Can I sue my parents in this case?

Without any constraints, someone like "Dear Abby" who gives out advice all the time would be sued relentlessly. And we all make suggestions like this to people on a smaller scale. But we’re not breaking the law every time we do this.

Generally, in order to be successful with a lawsuit, the bad consequence has to be foreseeable, and in addition there is a need to show that they owed the person proper advice – meaning that it was paid for, or contracted, or something.

From what I can tell, none of this applies to the advice that Steven gave. He gave his advice for free. He didn’t portray himself as being particularly knowledgeable on this issue. And, he doesn't foresee that they'll have a problem with the advice that he gave to them. So, from a legal standpoint, I feel that what Steven did is completely safe (but I am not a lawyer).

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