NBC news correspondent Mike Taibbi says he quit smoking after ABC’s Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. Now Taibbi is telling his story on the air. Included in that story is Taibbi having a CT scan.
His main source is Dr. Claudia Henschke, who recently promoted the benefits of lung CT scanning with a new study. In the story last night, Henschke told Taibbi after his scan:
“Your lungs really look quite good. You’re completely fine.”
That misleads viewers about the certainty of these tests. For balance, Taibbi did include the comment of Dr. Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who said it was “outrageous” that Dr. Henschke estimated that 80 percent of lung cancer deaths could be prevented, and who suggested Taibbi was reading too much into his own clean scan.
Dr. Bach says it was simply too soon to rely too much on the scans as a basis for treatment. The story continued:
“If they’re being told it will help them, they’re being misled,” he says.
But Henschke says there’s no reason to wait years for the results of another study.
“Clearly, when you find lung cancer early you can cure it,” she says.
That was my reason for getting tested, and it’s why I feel good about the results. It’s also why I know I won’t smoke again, and why I’m committed to future scans as my best chance to know what next steps, if any, might be needed.
So despite the split opinions, and despite the argument against the evidence, Taibbi tugged on heart strings and editorialized and put himself into the story. He and NBC are wrong for failing to conduct an evidence-based discussion. That’s not reporting. That’s crusading.