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Is ethics only for doctors – medical negligence or negligent journalism ?

  • August 16, 2015
  • 3 min read
Is ethics only for doctors – medical negligence or negligent journalism ?

According to Kovach and Rosenstiel (authors of The Elements of Journalism), “discipline of verification” is the essence of journalism to reproduce truth. Thomas E. Patterson (author of Need for Knowledge based Journalism) interprets this “discipline of verification” as a thin line that separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art. According to him, “Entertainment focus on what is most diverting. Propaganda selects facts and invents them to serve the real purpose: persuasion and manipulation. Fiction invents scenarios to get at a more personal impression of what it calls truth. Journalism alone is focused on getting what happened down right.”

media manipulative medical

Isn’t it a duty of a news reporter to spend some minutes researching about the topic he is about to deliver to the world, if he is uneducated about it? But recently, there’s an increasing trend towards criminalizing and blaming medical professionals for the sake of spicy news headline – probably entertainment or propaganda. And majority of the people (literate or illiterate) tend to follow the irresponsible shepherd mindlessly. A question that has always haunted my mind – “Is ethics only for medical professionals? Why are others not answerable to the society?”. No excuses please!!!

One of the headlines in a national daily “Kantipur” in August 14 read – “A pipe missed inside patient’s stomach during surgery” claiming it to be a negligent act. The “pipe” mentioned there was a “DJ stent” for medical professionals, a “pipe” for the common people and a “pipe” for the journalist too. Further investigations and inquiries from skeptical doctors revealed the fact that it was in fact a catheter left in place as per the protocol, which was to be removed on follow-up. This is why a knowledge based journalism is necessary. On the next day, the reporter instead of admitting his mistake and apologizing, tried hiding it by writing another news post which mentioned about the delayed removal (3 months from surgery) of DJ stent inserted during the surgery for renal stone. DJ stents are to be removed within 6 months of insertion and they may be removed earlier but who is he to decide? Once again, the doctors were blamed without reasons to cover up for the baseless news reported by uneducated reporter.

Time and again, doctors and hospitals are made to pay heavy compensation for alleged “medical negligence” which are false and baseless. Few years back, a case of “Gastroschisis” was reported as a negligence of a reputed doctor for incising the abdomen of the newborn by national daily newspapers.

The news soon became viral in social media especially among the medical community and many rebelled against it in a sarcastic way warning all about the similar news in near future:

  1. Plates and screws missed inside the body during the surgery for fractured bones
  2. Gallbladder removed instead of only the gallstones
  3. Patient faced difficulty copulating with his wife after urinary catheter insertion for urinary retention which was kept for 3 days
  4. Uterus incised during caesarian section
  5. Urinary catheter inserted after cholecystectomy operation

Instead of filling the existing gap between the doctors and the patients, the irresponsible media is playing a role in widening it further.

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