So apparently, we've agreed that medical questions are off-topic here, largely because accuracy matters, and we can't take the responsibility to judge serious medical issues through the SE format -- it just won't end up working well. I agree with that.

However, I think that some medical questions should be acceptable here, like "how can I close a cut if I don't have a Bandaid on me?," and "what can I do to make a mosquito bite stop itching?" and similar questions. These problems won't cause too much harm if they're mishandled, and (I think) comfortably fit within Wikipedia's definition of "lifehack."

What does the community think about this? Need we make all medical questions off-topic, in order to protect the site's users?

  • 3
    Shokhet, I removed all the polling-style answers you posted. If you have thoughts on the issue yourself, please feel free to post it as an answer, but it is generally better to let everyone have a voice by soliciting thoughts and opinions rather pre-posting all sides of the conversation yourself in this type of pseudo-poll. It's not difficult to infer what the community wants from the conversation while allowing for the possibility that there's an issue we have not considered. Polling is generally not a good substitute for discussion. Thanks. Jan 6, 2015 at 13:58
  • @RobertCartaino, I'll have to respect your opinion; besides being a team member, you also have been here a lot longer than I have -- I haven't spent a year on SE yet. However, I was under the impression that Meta was where site policy is decided by consensus, which is reached by voting on issues. I modeled this post after Meta questions like this one, which I thought were common practice around here. That said, I'll probably repost the answer that I feel is most correct. Thanks for explaining the rationale for deletion.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 20:07
  • 1
    Thank you for your consideration. This is a great example how "open discussion" brought out an issue that would never have been reached in the poll. Shog's answer is quite excellent... and we stumbled on a reasonable solution that goes way beyond "small medical questions should [always|never] be on-topic" — a type of sweeping moratorium that I think is all too prevalent on this site. Jan 7, 2015 at 21:49
  • 3
    I think I'm starting to see things from your point of view, @RobertCartaino. Thanks again for taking the time to write thoughtful comments to explain why you did what you did; I really appreciate that.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 7, 2015 at 22:42
  • I think most questions should/could be okay. Where you start running into problems is when people start using this site as a sort of WebMD or HealthTap. Asking medications questions and such would be going too far.
    – L.B.
    Jan 20, 2015 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


This is a non-issue and y'all are wasting your time by talking about it.

What, you're gonna have multiple meta discussions and a big poll in order to swat a mosquito-question? That's just silly.

Wait until you get a question about alternative cancer treatments. Or someone asking how to set a splint on a broken leg while hiking through the wilderness. Then you'll have something to discuss. Namely, specific questions that might be problematic.

On sites that've regularly and repeatedly attracted questions seeking personal medical advice, they've set up policies based on the experience they gained from the specific problems they faced on a daily basis. But y'all aren't facing any regular problematic medical questions. So you're building unnecessary rules and wasting time on unnecessary discussions when there are much more pressing problems to address here.

As a rule of thumb, you should determine your scope by discussing specific questions you feel are problematic and then, over time, identifying common factors shared by them and not shared by questions generally accepted as reasonable.

  • That sounds like it should work.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 22:53

I think that small-time medical questions should be on-topic on Lifehacks

Non-serious questions do not pose a danger to question-askers, because there won't be any serious affects from bad advice given.

This will also limit the "gerrymandering" of our scope, to an extent....cheap and easy bandaids where I don't have one certainly feels like a hack, and fits most definitions of "lifehack," without adding "warnings, exclusions, exceptions etc."

How serious the question is will be decided by those with CV privileges. If five of them can agree that the question-asker is seeking personal advice on a serious medical issue, then the question will be closed, and the user will (hopefully) directed to consult his medical professional about his problem in comments under the question.

  • 1
    Leaving things open to the interpretation of close voters is a recipe for conflict.
    – apaul
    Jan 6, 2015 at 20:33
  • 2
    Everything is open to the interpretation of close voters. If no one thinks a question is bad, it won't be closed; if everyone thinks it's bad, it'll be deleted. Regardless of what reasons y'all come up with here, @apaul34208. Conflict is what happens whenever multiple people interact; both meta and close-voting are tools for resolving conflict. But trying to wag the dog by preemptively resolving conflicts that don't yet exist is a recipe for confusion.
    – Shog9
    Jan 6, 2015 at 22:31
  • @Shog9 The discussion centered around a paragraph in our scope discussion and if I'm not mistaken a few questions were already closed because of the scope.
    – apaul
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:17
  • @apaul34208 Look at Shog's answer. I believe his point was that each individual question should be raised in Meta, if there's disagreement about it.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:19
  • @Shokhet That could work, but if we're going to go in that direction we need to edit the scope.
    – apaul
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:24
  • @apaul34208 I don't think that scope is meant to be monolithic, nor authoritative. Site policy is based on consensus, not by posting "this is the scope."
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:28
  • Also avoiding the close, argue, reopen, argue, close again workflow seems like it would be a good thing.
    – apaul
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:28
  • That's what I thought, also, @apaul34208, but I've since been persuaded by Shog's reasoning in his answer.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:29
  • True, but as long as people refer to the scope as if it were authoritative, we need to maintain it. Or we need to change people's perceptions of it.
    – apaul
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:31
  • @apaul34208 ....we'll see what happens, I guess. I'm no expert in how SE works, but I guess we'll just have to play it by ear.
    – Shokhet
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:37

These problems won't cause too much harm if they're mishandled

I'm thinking that at least one issue with taking on medical questions of any sort is the potential for minor injuries to become major injuries if mistreated.

Even a small cut is an open wound, if the wound isn't treated properly you're open to infection, scarring, accidental tattooing and so on.

Counting on a self diagnosis of the injury being correct could be a problem as well. I've had more than a few times where I thought I had a mosquito bite and it turned out to be a more serious sting/bite from another insect or had cuts that I judged to be minor that should have had a few stitches.

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