Observations Medicine and the Media

What’s keeping the Chilean miners down?

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5860 (Published 21 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5860
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow, and Financial Times columnist
  1. margaretmccartney{at}doctors.org.uk

The rescue of “Los 33” after more than two months trapped attracted worldwide attention. Margaret McCartney questions the accuracy of the media’s portrayal of their mental health—and what they left out

In all, 33 miners, 69 days, and 26 people sent by the BBC to the San José copper and gold mine to cover their rescue (www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/14/chile-miners-bbc-overspend). The story about the miners trapped deep underground attracted more than 2000 members of the global media to the ringside to watch their individual slow ascent some 700 metres to the cameras. The story combined fear, elation, human interest, and raw joy. No wonder the press cleared pages to write about it; and featuring heavily was a mixture of fact, speculation, and opinion on the state of the miners’ health.

BBC Radio 4 in its Today news programme described how the miners after rescue were sent immediately to hospital: “One of the miners has been diagnosed with pneumonia, others have dental infections and eye problems, but all are in better shape than had been expected after their ordeal” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9090000/9090850.stm). The Guardian noted that during the underground ordeal doctors spoke to each miner daily, banned cigarettes and alcohol, and instead sent them nicotine …

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