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Another glimpse – this time from Oklahoma – of fawning news of medical technology

The Oklahoman is another newspaper that must love new, expensive, unproven medical technologies.

The story, “Tulsa company hopes device can ease cancer screenings,” may just as well have been headlined, “Tulsa company can’t write a better promotional news release than this.”

It’s a local business story, cheerleading for local business, and to hell with the evidence. And for that matter, the story thumbs its nose at women who need better information than this about breast cancer screening.

Former Washington Post health section editor Craig Stoltz wrote this summary on HealthNewsReview.org:

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“This story on a new ultrasound imaging device stands out from other zero-star stories we’ve reviewed. This piece doesn’t merely fail to be accurate, balanced and complete. It fails to even try.

* It draws on only one source, a company executive whose job it is to sell machines
* It doesn’t present any data to justify the source’s claims of efficacy and superiority
* It doesn’t provide any context about similar devices and other diagnostic techniques
* By implying the device can detect cancers mammograms cannot, it could provoke unjustified fear
* It fails to distinguish between screening and diagnosis

Looking over the story, it’s not clear the reporter even asked a question. It is not mean or hyperbolic to say that most press releases are more informative.”

Consider the impact on consumers of this kind of daily drumbeat of such stories by news organizations all across the country while you listen to all of the mounting opposition to health care reform proposals in Washington. (Today I’ve blogged about just two – albeit egregious – examples in South Dakota and Oklahoma.)

Until we educate health care consumers better than this, health care reform is going to be a really tough sell.

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Comments

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Rafael Marquez

June 19, 2009 at 7:54 am

Not only is the article in The Oklahoman everything that you say it is, it’s also poorly written. Did you notice how they repeat the same point about mammograms not being conclusive at the end of the story? It seems like Jupiterwala was editing his press release and forgot to erase that extra sentence.