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Support Americans' Rights to Criticize Powerful Institutions

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We are deeply concerned about Northern Light Health and Eastern Maine Medical Center’s threat of a lawsuit to silence a 15-year-old boy.

Samson Cournane raised concerns about patient safety standards at Eastern Maine Medical Center. His research led him to call for an investigation into patient safety at the hospital and a plan to improve it. He published his appeal, addressed to Congressman Jared Golden, on, on Twitter, and in a local college newspaper.

Rather than addressing Samson’s concerns, the hospital threatened to sue his mother for defamation. Though the threat was baseless, it produced the desired chilling effect: Samson stopped advocating for patient safety.

If filed, the hospital’s suit would be a classic example of a “SLAPP,” a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” In a SLAPP, an individual or entity threatens to drag a speaker into an expensive court proceeding to shut them up. It’s censorship by lawsuit — or the threat of one. 

Citizens in a free society must be able to raise the alarm when they believe institutions are failing in their responsibilities. When corporations use their money and power to coerce regular people into silence, their practices can go unchecked by whistleblowers.  That’s a problem for all of us. 

We urge Northern Light Health and Eastern Maine Medical Center to retract its threat to sue over Samson’s First Amendment-protected advocacy.