That only 2 out of 149 communities have such disclaimers, help to perpetuate the myth that there is something special about health and law; that when it comes to these two specific spheres of human life, there is somehow a priesthood of experts who have a monopoly over the truth; that those who have not spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars and years on medical or law school are not allowed to speak.
The way I see it, one goal of Stack Exchange, which is premised on the idea of expert communities, is to prove that you can get expert information and advice on the internet for free, instead of forking out wads of money to a "qualified professional". Having any such disclaimers perpetuate the myth that mere internet sites like Stack Exchange cannot possibly furnish any valuable information.
In most countries besides the USA, the freedom to express your views and give advice about health or law is no less than the freedom to do likewise for say travel or sports. It is primarily in the USA that people have been conditioned by excessive litigation to be very fearful of expressing their views about health or law.
Why, may I ask, is there not a similar disclaimer on Travel that looks like this:
Travel Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified travel agent.
After all, traveling can be every bit as hazardous as any health or legal issue. Go to the wrong place and you might be raped and murdered. Go to the wrong country and you may be kidnapped or wrongfully imprisoned.
Or a similar disclaimer on Martial Arts? (Make the wrong move and you might die.) Or on Mathematics? (Make the wrong calculations when designing a bridge or a spacecraft and you might die.)
Such a disclaimer on Travel, or Martial Arts, or Mathematics would be absurd. But to most people around the world, such disclaimers are no less absurd than the disclaimers we have on Health and Law now. It is only to the American that a Mathematics disclaimer is more absurd---only Americans have been conditioned by excessive litigation to be very fearful of giving medical or legal advice.
I therefore recommend one of the following options:
- Allow no disclaimers on any Stack Exchange site.
- Have disclaimers on every Stack Exchange site, so that Law and Health do not appear to be in any way special or privileged.
- Limit such disclaimers to US users, if the American fear of litigation is the primary reason for such disclaimers.
When anyone on the internet dispenses advice, be it on Health, Law, Travel, Martial Arts, or Mathematics, I know how to judge if it's good advice (hey, and we even have a voting system here!) and take it with a pinch of salt. I don't need to be slapped in the face with a silly disclaimer.
People from the rest of the world should not be subject to the same fear and intimidation that Americans are accustomed to, when it comes to health and law.
P.S. If there are other countries in the world where health and law similarly occupy a privileged position, I apologize. But AFAIK, this is a uniquely American phenomenon.
This answer was adapted from an answer originally posted on meta.health. Nobody noticed my answer there; so someone suggested I post this here instead for greater visibility.