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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
There are no other treatment options available for these patients.
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.
The article explains that the technologies under development would be novel, largely because of the improved quality of life they may offer patients.
There is no evidence the article relies on a press release.