Observations Media watch

Why don't journalists mention the data?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39245.510718.59 (Published 14 June 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1249
  1. Ben Goldacre, doctor and writer, London
  1. ben{at}badscience.net

    Have stories about “electrosensitivity” simply been lifted from those promoting this new diagnosis?

    Sometimes, as a doctor who also writes in the newspapers, a dark thought comes across me: wouldn't it be so refreshing—secretly, wouldn't it feel so free—to leave the medical thing behind, and just make stuff up, say what I want, spin any story that pleases me, or any story that sells, and gaily ignore the evidence?

    For two years now the British news media has been promoting the existence of a new medical condition, called electrosensitivity, or electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The story—or in medical terms the hypothesis—is that a wide range of symptoms are caused by acute exposure to electromagnetic signals, and that these symptoms are ameliorated by this signal being removed.

    The features have a lot in common with what might often conventionally be called “medically unexplained symptoms”: tiredness, difficulty concentrating, headaches, nausea, bowel complaints, aches in the limbs, crawling sensations or pain in the skin, and more, for which no explanation is found. Such symptoms have existed since long before the appearance of “electrosensitivity,” and the absence of …

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