Doctor sues Facebook for defamation over comments on abortion rights page

Roland von Marburg is suing Facebook Australia in the Supreme Court.

Roland von Marburg is suing Facebook Australia in the Supreme Court.

A DOCTOR and father-of-eight who supports an anti-abortion group called “Abortion Hurts Albury” has sued Facebook Australia for defamation in the Victorian Supreme Court over claims he was an incompetent surgeon and cocaine user.

Dr Roland von Marburg filed a statement of claim with the court alleging the offending comments had been posted on the “Rights to Privacy Albury” Facebook page, set up to oppose protesters outside an Albury abortion clinic.

Dr von Marburg, an ear, nose and throat specialist, issued a writ against Facebook Australia as well as the Facebook page’s administrator and a doctor said to be a lead campaigner for the group, but not the people who actually posted the comments.

In his statement of claim obtained by Fairfax Media, Dr von Marburg said he had moved to Albury in 1999 and set up a medical practice.

He is also a visiting medical officer at the Albury-Wodonga private hospital.

Dr von Marburg detailed how he was found guilty in May 2012 of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct by the NSW Medical Tribunal.

He said the findings against him arose from his use of pethidine for about a month in 2001 to manage migraine headaches and stress, and in 2008 for about six months, and as a consequence he was banned from possessing, supplying, administering, handling or dispensing any drug of addiction or prescribing drugs of addiction for self-medication.

Dr von Marburg revealed he was a supporter of “Abortion Hurts Albury” and the international anti-abortion group “Helpers of God’s Precious Infants”.

Dr von Marburg claimed he briefly went to the Englehardt Street Fertility Control Clinic on October 16 where he spoke to his wife who “often spends time in peaceful prayer vigil outside this clinic”.

He said he noticed he was being filmed or photographed by a supporter of the “Rights to Privacy Albury” organisation and his photo was later posted on the group’s Facebook page.

“Among the allegations that were posted, left up for some hours or days and then deleted were false allegations against me of Medicare fraud and medical negligence,” Dr von Marburg said in his statement of claim.

“Many of these serious and untrue allegations have been previously made on the same Facebook page. The posts on the Facebook page included commentary from various people referring to me as a ‘creep’, ‘a pest’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘a horrible man’ among other abusive comments.”

Dr von Marburg said claims he was a “butcher” who used cocaine were utterly false and harmful to his personal and professional reputation.

Dr von Marburg then issued a defamation writ suing for damages claiming he had suffered hurt to his feelings; had been brought into hatred, disrespect, contempt and ridicule; and had suffered severe anxiety.

The case recently went before Supreme Court Justice Michael McDonald who was told the comments had since been deleted from the Facebook page but that Dr von Marburg wanted to pursue the defendants to pay his legal costs.

Justice McDonald reserved his decision on costs.

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