Reader questions balance, integrity of NJ web story on medical imaging cutbacks

A news story – it’s not labeled as an editorial or as an advertisement – on a New Jersey news website bemoaned how “doctors will soon be forced to scale back or discontinue medical imaging services, due to the major reimbursement cuts recently released in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 2010 Physician Fee Schedule.”

The story went on to quote four sources who promoted the need for imaging support – but it quoted no one who talked about questions of overuse of, and overspending on, medical imaging.

So a reader weighed in on the online comment section, writing:

“Is this a press release or a news story? Are you paid by the imaging lobby?

The part about “stifling innovation” and “delivering better outcomes with less radiation” is downright disturbing, particularly in light of a a recent National Cancer Institute report that said 29,000 cancers – and 14,500 deaths – related to radiation exposure from CT tests will occur in people who were scanned just in the year 2007.

You should know your reporting could be hurting people. How about an article detailing the risks of CT scans to provide some balance to your readers? Imaging can help but medical researchers are quickly discovering it’s vastly overused, particularly for heart disease and musculoskeletal disorders. Not only can the radiation harm you, it can lead people to get unnecessary surgeries that carry the risk of harming them for life.”

Thank goodness the “news website” posts comments. In this case, it made the page look smarter and more balanced.

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December 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm

It is disturbing how easy it seems to be to get the “news” media to present as news what are actually highly biased points of view. As this “news” story of medical imaging illustrates, these points of view are often of questionable accuracy at best, and at worst risks harming the health of readers. It seems some news organizations are willing to present an unresearched press release as news.
Another example of this phenomenon is discussed in a post by Dr. Eric Widera which details media reporting suggesting morphine promotes cancer growth, inspite of no evidence for this contention. The reporting seems to have emanated from an effort to promote a very expensive drug which blocks the actions of morphine.