To be plain and clear: This morning news segment about "lunchtime" liposuction isn’t journalism, it’s publicity for a cosmetic procedure that is being offered by the "source."
Viewers should think about what they saw in this piece. As the anchorman himself put it, the patient was a "healthy, gorgeous" young woman who wanted a "little fat pouch" gone. With health insurance premiums ever rising, would you want people in your insurance pool to have this procedure and to have it covered by insurance, thereby inevitably driving up your premiums? It would have been journalistic to explore that question.
The trend continues: If you want several minutes of free publicity for your health care idea, unchallenged by evidence or by any independent analysis, morning TV is your pot of gold.
The segment says the procedure costs about $3,000 "per site." But even the promoting surgeon said it varies across the country. Varies by how much? Also: Is this $3,000 per love handle, or $3,000 for the pair? One hip, or both? One belly, two love handles, two hips…we’re looking at the price of a year of tuition plus room and board at a state university.
Finally, there was no discussion of whether these costs were reimbursed by any or most insurers.
None was given. What’s the track record to back up these enthusiastic claims?
The only possible side effects mentioned are very minor and minimized by the doctor. Certainly there are others, including infection, bleeding and more serious damage if the doctor makes an error.
There is none, aside from the apparent self-satisfaction and mutual admiration of the practioner and patient. Also, the surgeon states at the end of the story that the patient will "never have to worry about this [area] again" implying that it’s a permanent solution to this area of fat for her. That is a dubious claim and they don’t present any data to back it up.
By implying small pouches of fat in fit, healthy people require medical intervention, the segment allows the "medicalization" of what is clearly not a medical problem.
The doctor who performed the operation and the patient who elected to get it are the only people interviewed. If you want free advertising for your idea, morning TV shows are a good way to get it – unchallenged by any independent expert.
The story does not seriously engage the alternative treatment, which is to continue to be healthy and fit, spend lunch hours taking a brisk walk and spend the money in a way that stimulates the economy more efficiently.
The story does not say how many plastic surgeons provide this sort of "less invasive" liposuction, or how to locate one.
Though the story bills the surgery as something of a novelty, it does nothing to establish this: how often it is done, how long it has been done, how many plastic surgeons do it, etc.
There is no evidence this story was triggered by a press release, though it certainly appears to be one.