Medicine And The Media

Light the blue touchpaper and stand well clear

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 17 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:432
  1. Nigel Duncan

    The issue of selective abortion exploded into the British media last week, propelled by two exclusive tabloid newspaper stories. A week that started with a professor of gynaecology talking about the abortion of a healthy twin ended with news of a woman expecting octuplets and a sponsorship deal of £1m. Both cases raised as many questions about media ethics as about medical ethics. The difference was that the woman patient employed a publicist to handle her story, while the professor dealt with the media unaided.

    For Phillip Bennett it was a week to forget. A professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at London's Queen Charlotte's Hospital, he unwittingly catapulted himself from relative obscurity into the full glare of media limelight by speaking publicly about the abortion of a healthy twin. What appeared to be a genuine attempt to air an important moral dilemma in the press turned into an uncontrollable cascade of publicity. The story first appeared in the Sunday Express, where Professor Bennett revealed that his patient, 26 weeks pregnant, was carrying healthy twins. She was in socially straitened circumstances …

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