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Asking for medical help by posting on the net: genre, functions and ethical issues


On the basis of the growing of the number of sites related to health issues and online conversation, statistical research tend to acknowledge that the communication practices of health message boards have significant roles to play in the era of online counseling (Anderson, 2003; Kim & Yoon, 2011; Mulholland, 1999; Eysenbach and Diepgen 1999; O'Connor and Johanson 2000; Shuyler and Knight 2003; Gooden and Winefield 2007). However, one of the main worries concerning these spaces has been the uncontrolled information that is provided by users with no defined roles and who do not/cannot take responsibility for what they say. Previous studies were intended to explore how people discussing health issues use health-related online communities or doctoranswers support frames to access information and support. This research, conversely, explores the heterogeneous territory of new media health care discourse questioning whether Computer Mediated Medical Communication may represent a new genre and consequently may address new functions (Campagna et al., 2012). In addition, starting from the most common definition of medical ethics, the study investigates whether CMMC can meet the expectations of the patient, the role of the physician and eventually how doctors address issues such as the individuality of the medical response and the self-positioning with respect to the certainty of virtual diagnoses. In particular, this paper examines a wide array of authentic examples from medical message boards analyzing by means of Discourse Analysis the ways in which participants construct positions and commitment toward advice, opinions and suggestions (Van der Auwera and Plungian, 1998; Nuyts, 2001; Bybee et al. 1994; Cornillie 2009; Marìn 2004; Hyland, 2002).The analysis attempts to understand how health communication is changing in an online environment and what results are produced by the shift from a doctorto- patient frame to user-to-user frame in terms of authorship and responsibility toward utterances.