Medicine And The Media

Good intentions are not enough

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 15 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:203
  1. Jeffrey S Tobias
  1. JEFFREY S TOBIAS is clinical director for cancer services, Middlesex and University College Hospitals, London, and author of “Cancer: What Every Patient Needs to Know” (Bloomsbury, pounds sterling6.00).

    In 1987 a young American journalist, leafing through files tucked away in a military archive, unexpectedly turned up evidence of deliberate injections of radioactive plutonium in unsuspecting patients. She telephoned the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was patted on the head, but refused to be reassured. This low key but quietly dramatic encounter is typical of the doggedly persistent style of American investigative journalism which uncovered Watergate; it proved the jumping off point for Deadly Experiments, a shocking expose of unauthorised (and unethical) radiation studies carried out during the 1940s and ‘50s.

    No room for complacency here: these were not just madcap American scientists, Strangelove-style boffins overstepping the mark somewhere in the remote New Mexico desert. It …

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