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Hope for an artificial lung

Rating

2 Star

Hope for an artificial lung

Our Review Summary

This article explores artificial lung devices currently in development at the University of Maryland Medical Center and elsewhere. It is an example of a local newspaper reporting on potentially significant medical research occuring within its circulation area.

But the story falls short in several important ways:

  • It fails to apply scrutiny to the optimistic and self-interested claims made for the devices, and fails to seek commentary from independent sources.
  • It fails to provide information about the costs and outcomes for current devices and treatments.
  • It fails to explore the potential benefits and harms of the improved devices on outcomes and mortality. 

The story also uses as its hook an extraordinary example of someone who has survived an unusually long time on existing technology. This is a confusing way to begin a story about new technologies, and leads readers to expect a story different from the one delivered.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The writer does not cite the costs of the current ECMO treatment, the costs of a lung transplant, or the total costs the patient in the opening anecdote generated. It also fails to report on how costs might differ with the new technologies under development.  And, if readers aren’t clear about this, these are very expensive treatments.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The report does not specify survival rates using current technologies, nor does it attempt to quantify the extent to which the new devices could improve that.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article discusses at length the potential benefits of the devices under development but does not discuss potential harms. The problems of clotting and damage to blood cells are mentioned as potential barriers but are not presented as harms of treatment, how they contribute to mortality, etc.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The report does not cite evidence that would support optimism about the coming generation of artificial lung devices. The story is based on an inference, offered early on, that because one patient was able to live for over 100 days on the old technology that a new technology could work better.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no disease-mongering in the story.  But it would have been helpful to cite the sources of the following statistics:  "Some 1,405 American patients received new lungs last year, but 254 died awaiting them. Another 342,000 patients with conditions too severe for transplants died of lung disease."

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

It appears that all medical sources consulted for the story are involved with developing similar machines. Most work for the same institution. Their financial and professional conflicts of interest are not revealed.

No independent medical sources are interviewed on the prognosis for current artificial lung users, for lung transplant patients or for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. No independent sources are consulted on the importance or value of these devices in development.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Applicable

There are no other treatment options available for these patients.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The article eventually explains that the artificial lungs under development are uNPRoven and at best a few years from clinical use. But it does not do this early and clearly enough, leaving readers to believe for too long that there are important new machines imminent or in use.

The use of an anecdote about someone barely surviving on an old technology contributes to the confusion about whether a superior device currently exists. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article explains that the technologies under development would be novel, largely because of the improved quality of life they may offer patients.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

There is no evidence the article relies on a press release.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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