Press Press

Doctors under fire

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 05 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:55
  1. Caroline White, freelance medical journalist

    How can they answer back?

    When a doctor is in the news, it is usually a story of alleged professional negligence or misconduct. All that human interest and drama, combined with the inevitable fall from grace, make for good copy.

    A crude trawl of press coverage in November last year revealed a different story of doctors reportedly bungling, blundering, or groping their way through headlines for almost every day of the month. The Medical Defence Union (MDU) now receives more than six inquiries a week to its media advisory unit, up from the same number a month in 1993.

    Embedded Image

    (Credit: PA PHOTO)

    Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Wakeham (left) and Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell display the code of conduct: should it be amended to protect doctors?

    While a recent BMJ study of three national newspapers found that the proportion of negative doctor stories had not changed in 20 years, it also found that coverage of health had more than tripled, producing an absolute increase in unfavourable column inches for doctors (

    As doctors …

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