Reviews Press

Journalists accused of wrecking doctors' lives

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 24 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:485

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  1. Joanna Lyall, freelance journalist (
  1. London

    They are guilty of “soul murder,” says professor

    Journalists' pursuit of human interest stories can wreck doctors' lives and threaten patient care, according to Raymond Tallis, professor of geriatric medicine at Manchester University.

    Speaking in London last week at a debate on standards of medical journalism, Professor Tallis said, “One of the most striking trends in recent years has been the increasing ease with which journalists smash the lives of doctors and ruin the reputation of hospitals.”

    He criticised journalists' coverage of the organ retention issue at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool (BMJ 2001;322: 371>), saying that journalists had joined hands with lawyers, “opportunist politicians, and grieving parents, to transform what had hitherto been routine practice—organ retention—into a macabre ritual.”

    Professor Tallis said, “The scale of what Dick van Velzen, the pathologist at the heart of the scandal, did was unacceptable but retention of organs was within the law” and within the ethical guidelines. He added, “This did not prevent endless hysterical, persecutory coverage with tabloids hounding doctors and managers.”

    Professor Tallis, author of Hippocratic Oaths: Medicine and its Discontents, an analysis of modern medicine published last year (BMJ …

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