These recent questions (on the front page of questions as of time of posting):

  1. What are the risks of surgery for a tongue-tied toddler? (asking about risks of surgery, relatedness of other medical issues)
  2. One year old is restless and scared after an injection (specific medication injection side effects)

seem to be asking for medical advice. Based on the FAQ, "specific medical issues" is the first item listed under off-topic subjects.

I've also looked at the related question do we need to avoid serious medical questions? which contains an example - both of the above questions seem to me to be 'off topic' based on that example, but both questions also have upvotes as well...

I've seen other questions that seemed close to this line before as well - I don't remember specifically which ones off-hand, but a quick search and evaluate turns up this, this, this, this (closed), and this, which also seem to be specific medical questions.

So my question(s) - What exactly is the line between on/off topic with regards to medical questions? Are there suggestions for how to edit (or get the OP to edit) this type of question to be more on-topic? How should we deal with this type of question?

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You're right! Medical questions live in a huge grey area which we haven't been very good at handling consistently. This requires attention! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 5 '13 at 8:39
    
Note that upvotes are not an indicator of "on topic". –  cabbey Mar 15 '13 at 5:45
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I hereby propose the following guidelines for medical questions, which I believe better fits the way people are actually using the site, while still addressing issues of liability:

Medical questions should solicit advice from a parent's point of view, requiring no professional expertise, and should not seek to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.

I think the reason we haven't been very strict on closing medical questions is that they have been answered fairly well for the most part. People are citing authoritative sources and strongly suggesting consulting a doctor when it's indicated. Where personal experiences are cited, they are clearly denoted as anecdotal. The anticipated and feared dangerous diagnostic answers that prompted making specific medical issues off topic in the first place have not materialized.

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I think this is a nice short, simple summary. However, how do you feel questions like this fit in? Specifically, the "what are the risks?", the question about whether being partially deaf may be related to being tongue tied, and the odds of any future children also being tongue-tied? Are these parts on or off topic? –  Beofett Mar 11 '13 at 12:21
    
That question is borderline, but my personal feeling is that it's okay to ask, as long as you don't expect a professional-level answer. If you ask a surgeon and a parent what the risks are, you will get two different answers. In particular, surgeons tend to downplay the risk of infection, whereas any parent whose child has experienced a post-surgical infection knows how bad it is. That's why I felt compelled to answer that part of the question. –  Karl Bielefeldt Mar 11 '13 at 14:48
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I don't want to get into a mode where we reject a question simply because they didn't use some magic phrasing that was deemed to be on topic. In other words, we should be able to imply they are asking for a parent's point of view even if the question doesn't use those exact words. –  Karl Bielefeldt Mar 11 '13 at 14:50
    
Sounds good to me... I like your proposal better than the one I posted! –  Beofett Mar 11 '13 at 15:04
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I'll be honest: I saw both questions, and felt like neither were particularly good questions.

However, in addition to the specific medical advice, this question included elements that I felt were on-topic (mostly "How do you deal with your baby being so frustrated?").

The other question didn't seem to exclude non-medical issues, since the core of the question seemed to be "she is very restless,scared and keeps crying without a reason.What could be the problem?", in which case the medical content could be seen as merely background information.

In both cases, I took no action (aside from some cleanup edits) because I wanted to see what the community consensus was.

As it was, one of the questions got two answers, each of which addressed different parts of the question (and the higher-voted of the two addressed the frustration part of the question which I felt was on-topic).

That being said... neither question received any flags, edit suggestions, close votes, or even down-votes.

I am trying to be slower to react as a moderator for any "grey" areas, particularly where new users are concerned. Partly this is to make the site more welcoming; partly this is in hopes of seeing more "policing" activities from the community members at large.

Frankly, I was surprised neither one of the questions went as long as they did without any negative or corrective attention.

So, thank you for bringing this to meta.

Regarding your basic question here, though (where do we draw the line):

I suggest technical questions about a specific medical condition that has been diagnosed are off-topic. This also applies to any question that details a set of specific symptoms, and asks for a diagnosis or suggestions as to "what it might be".

Questions about how medical conditions relate to behavior (either how the person with the condition behaves, or how people around them behave), should be on-topic.

In both of the examples listed, the questions fall clearly on both sides of those dividing lines.

I think the best way to handle this is to edit out the parts that deal with asking about the diagnosis (i.e. anything that isn't explicitly relevant as background for the behavior).

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I like the suggestion. I guess I'm still new at this too - my first thought was to flag it as off topic (with the idea to let a mod make an appropriate edit or other action), but the UI turned into 'vote to close' - which seemed overly harsh if we're trying to attract users to the site. –  Chris Mar 6 '13 at 5:58
    
Flagging for closure is not quite the same thing as voting to close, as you need sufficient (500) reputation to actually cast a close vote. Even though we look to the community, we also use our own discretion, so don't hesitate to flag even if you're not sure. Think of it as "hey, could you take a look at this?", no matter what option you pick. As an alternative, you can also suggest edits if you think you can see a way to remove the bad parts, while preserving the good. If you alter a question significantly, you may want to include a comment explaining why. –  Beofett Mar 6 '13 at 12:58
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