Using the internet for medical advice

An official Google Blog entry details how one user used the search engine, from their mobile, to find out information about their premature baby's condition, with the resulting info saving the baby from an unneccesary blood transfusion.

That's all well and great, but I can't help but think that using the internet for medical advice and research might have negative side effects as well as positive ones. My grandad is suffering from a medical problem which his doctor's can't currently diagnose, and so he's been Googling away like mad, often worrying himself in the process.

Medical knowledge is something gathered and passed on within a specific community of professionals. What happens when the lay community tries to understand, learn, and self-diagnose? In some instances, it's probably hugely beneficial. I'm thinking of self-help groups for people with a specific problem, who might not otherwise get the support, and who might benefit from talking to others in the same situation. In other instances, perhaps it's best not to know?

Maybe this 'doctor knows best' is a very British attitude which is slowly dying away? Perhaps it's down to people's frustration with medical services that they're doing their own research, and perhaps during to alternative therapy?

Anyway, the point of all this is to mention a concept I joking thought up in a pub: 'Wikidoctor', a community-edited self-diagnosis guide.

It could make for a great spoof, and would of course be great for the cialis and viagra spammers. But could it, would it, and should it ever happen?