Monday montage of momentous health news coverage

Computer key - days of the week Monday

Computer key – days of the week Monday

We already have an occasional Five Star Friday feature, shining a light on excellence in some of the media messages we’ve seen.  But this week begins with a couple of big stories that are not the kinds of stories we normally review.  But we at least wanted to draw attention to them.

  • The Boston Globe has published one of the deepest investigative health care journalism projects in recent memory – “Clash in the Name of Care” – about the practice of “double-booking” or “concurrent or overlapping surgery.”  The story promo reads: “The question: Is it right or safe for surgeons to run two operations at once? Is it right that their patients may have no idea? The conflict went on for years. And it isn’t over yet.”  Stay tuned for the response from Massachusetts General Hospital, target of the investigation.

ADDENDUM ON NOV. 23:  THE MGH has posted a variety of FAQ and explainer articles on its website.  

  • You won’t be able to avoid hearing or reading news about a World Health Organization report published in The Lancet Oncology, “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat.” (Subscription required for full access.)  New York Magazine headlined its story: “Bacon Causes Cancer. But What Doesn’t?” Its opening line: “Today in news that shouldn’t be news: Bad food is bad for you. The public-health arm of the World Health Organization announced there is “sufficient evidence” that processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage cause colorectal cancer.” Pediatrician Aaron Carroll tweeted that it might be a good day to roll out one of his prior New York Times blog posts, “Red Meat Is Not The Enemy.”
  • Last Friday, we mentioned that the Boston Globe/Stat had written about advance criticism of University Hospital in Cleveland and the National Geographic Channel collaborating to televise the first live brain surgery. Well, the telecast and the surgery occurred last night. The Globe’s David Armstrong followed the event on Twitter, noting such things as:
    • It looks like National Geographic had no trouble selling ads for the televised event
    • The hospital chief of neurosurgery has reported owning stock options in the company whose product is being showcased
    • “Host” Bryant Gumbel dwelling on the height of the surgeon while frustrated twitter users ask dozens of good questions about the live surgery

Here’s an excerpt provided by the National Geographic Channel.


Reminder:  Our 10 systematic criteria are designed to be used only for stories that include claims about interventions such as treatments, tests, products or procedures.  That’s why these two stories fall outside of the scope of our criteria-driven reviews.  The first story is about hospital/surgical policy and patient safety.  The second is about risk – not about an intervention.


Addendum:  I intended to include, but forgot, Aaron Carroll’s New York Times Upshot blog post from today, “Unexpected Honey Study Shows Woes of Nutrition Research.”


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Comments (2)

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October 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

This case demonstrates the dire need for whistleblower protection in this country. Thank God this wonderful doctor (Burke) – the top doc at MASS General, according to many patients and longtime coworkers to whom I’ve spoken- had the courage to stand up for patients. Of course, a younger man would have lost everything for standing up for what’s right, since there are no whistleblower protections in this country. Shame on Mass General for terminating him for following his conscience.

Having been a sort of whistleblower who will soon die as a result (retaliated against for pointing out IRS management crimes, then illegally denied all due process rights), I know the deadly results of having no protections. More people need to stand up for whistleblower protection – it is our only source of vital information which could save lives.

Jack Fowler

November 2, 2015 at 7:45 am

Thanks for the link to Aaron Carroll’s blog on red meat. A voice of reason is always welcome.