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The steady drip of biased reporting

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 20 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1414

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Neville Goodman, consultant anaesthetist
  1. Southmead Hospital, Bristol

    Steven Harley is a 41 year old man with tongue cancer. According to last week's Daily Mail(12 May), he is the victim not of the malignancy itself but of a “cancer blunder.” What was the blunder? He had been seen by many different doctors before the final diagnosis was made. The delay was, according to the Star (11 May), clear evidence of “scandalous treatment.”

    The member of parliament for Barnsley, Eric Illsley, raised the issue of misdiagnosis in the House of Commons on 10 May. Mr Illsley spared no detail and declared himself disgusted with the specialists' failure to find the cancer in time. “How did doctors miss my cancer 22 times?” screamed the front page of the Daily Express (11 May). On the same day the Star contributed “12 docs fail to spot dad's cancer” and declared that the “GPs, hospital medics and specialists … should be sacked.” The BBC1 evening news made it their second story, after leading with British troops in Sierra Leone.

    As anyone familiar with these stories could have predicted, nowhere in the most prominent …

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