A place to tell stories of patient harm from misleading media

Patient harm from misleading mediaWay back in 1992, our founder, Gary Schwitzer, published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled, “The Magical Medical Media Tour.” In it, he concluded: “Failure to take time helps explain how we get familiar stories of quick fixes, magic bullets and daily breakthroughs that feed hysteria and hypochondria, thereby harming, not helping.”

After all this time, it is again time to reflect on how media messages can cause real harm to real people. It can occur when people believe and act on what they read or hear in imbalanced, inaccurate, incomplete and misleading news stories, advertising/marketing material, or any medium or media format. They may be misled into making bad decisions resulting in bad outcomes.

We want to help prevent avoidable harm by helping people avoid avoidable ignorance.

You have to search to find peoples’ stories of these harms. There isn’t any registry. As a result, people probably don’t realize that these media-induced harms occur and how devastating they can be. We want to provide a forum for these stories.

Have you been harmed?

We invite our readers to send us your stories about patient harm from misleading media. You can leave a comment after any blog post on the site, or send an email to feedback@healthnewsreview.org. Please provide as much information as you can, and, if you’re willing, provide a phone number in case we want to call you to get more background.

How a Mothers Against Medical Error movement started

A news story’s role in the death of son of Mothers Against Medical Error founder
Helen Haskell states unequivocally that “media coverage played a large part in my son’s death.” Now she tries to help others after founding a patient safety advocacy organization that has many followers.

Cancer patient harms

Podcast: Real harm to real people from shoddy PR news releases
Hear the story of a man with glioblastoma (brain cancer) who was taken on a roller coaster ride of false hope – and harmed by misleading news (and news releases).

A breast cancer study in mice gets big headlines, setting up potential for patient ‘disaster,’ experts say
Some news organizations – most notably ABC’s Good Morning America – caused patient alarm and confusion when reporting on how cancer might spread after surgery – from a study done in mice.

Podcast: Trying to make breast cancer decisions while conflicting news stories swirl about
A young journalist tells what it’s like to hear widespread news stories about people similar to you in age and in condition, but who promote treatment choices very different than what was recommended for you – all while in the midst of trying to make vital treatment choices yourself.

Podcast: ChemoBrainFog blogger criticizes celebrity breast cancer news
A woman shares her specific criticism of celebrities telling their own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment stories which may have no relevance in other women’s lives.


Women’s health magazine “journalism”

A woman with thyroid disease gives a glimpse of what it’s like to read a magazine piece that trivializes your condition with a light-hearted, whimsical, silly listicle. She called it insulting and a “shameful advertisement for Synthroid” which she says wreaked havoc on her life.


Medical devices patient harms

Podcast: ABC stations mislead patients with “migraine treatment” news
A migraine patient advocate tells how she saw the impact of misleading information on a major market television station’s newscast. She calls it deplorable to prey on people who are desperate for relief.

Experimental therapy patient harms

Patients with a rare stomach disorder express alarm as TV news promotes nerve freezing for weight loss
Dozens of people raised safety concerns on Facebook in the wake of unquestioning coverage of an unproven weight loss procedure that involves freezing the vagus nerve, which regulates hunger and digestion. Many said they have gastroparesis, a debilitating stomach paralysis that can be caused be damage to the vagus nerve. Said gastroparesis patient Tiffany Mielcarek of Ohio: “It’s not worth 25 pounds, let me just say that.”

Podcast: Rare disease foundation says medical journal misled patients
Hear from a woman who saw what could happen when even the title of a paper in a medical journal could confuse and mislead a desperate patient community. She said, “We don’t want to discourage patients about research but we were in a position to have to do that and to explain the limitations of what had been demonstrated vs. what had appeared to have been demonstrated. That was challenging.”


MS patient harms

MS patient shines a light on the harms of misleading media messages
As a columnist and blogger, retired journalist and MS patient Ed Tobias stays busy debunking misleading media messages. “These days, there are so many more treatments to provide a better quality of life than when I was diagnosed,” he explains. “But the misinformation that flows around the web — it means patients may be encouraged to have hope that may be a pipe dream.”


Harms from promotion of unnecessary medical tests

Podcast:  The mild-mannered MD who became mad as hell
A physician-researcher became a health care consumer when she got a direct-mail promotion for cardiovascular screening. She wrote: “We must insist that our health care organizations do not respond to (economic) pressures by promoting dubious programs such as direct-to-consumer marketing of unnecessary and potentially harmful screening tests.”

Other reading

Hustling Hope: Montana couple sinks life savings into ‘miracle’ diabetes treatment
From San Diego news site inewsource.com: Trusting the online claims being made about Trina Health and its “artificial pancreas treatment” for diabetes, Ron and Julie Briggs signed up to run a clinic of their own in their hometown. It was the start of a long and painful journey that isn’t done unraveling.