28 October 2014

Seven News continues to fuel Ebola panic and hate

A woman with vague symptoms is admitted appropriately, cautiously and without panic to a top class medical facility in Brisbane for testing and observation. And what picture does Seven News use to illustrate the story online? A disturbing image of people in Hazmat gear dragging a body bag, with no caption to put it in context.

How ironic that Seven's current series of medical reports by Dr Andrew Rochford is called "Healthy Truth", because the truth about Ebola is the last thing they seem interested in reporting. Ebola is less contagious than flu. It doesn't spread by air. Only those in direct contact with the secretions of someone with Ebola symptoms can catch it.

It's way past time that Seven and other news organisations did what they are supposed to do... their role and duty in a civilized, modern society. Stop misleading and report the truth. Keep the community informed instead of scared. Give balanced, rational coverage and stop fuelling hateful, xenophobic and racist attitudes like the ones we see exhibited by the morons in the comments on Seven's website and social media pages.

And if Dr Andrew Rochford wants to be seen seriously as a medical communicator and not just a novelty ("oh look, a real doctor doing current affairs"), he must take a leading role in this.

20 October 2014

Mindless mildness from Johnson & Johnson highlights a double standard

Have a look at this picture of a common supermarket product and consider the following: In the world of the average consumer, what does "mild" mean? Surely mild is only ever a comparative term - as in "mild, moderate, severe" for grading diseases or "mild, medium, hot" for spices. Can something simply be mild without reference to something else which, by comparison, is not?

And how do you prove mildness? "Clinically", no less...?

In the ethical side of its operations - prescription drugs and medical devices - US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson would never get away with using a hanging, unqualified comparative like "mild" in promotional material targeted at health professionals. The ever stricter Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, authorised by the ACCC, expressly forbids this kind of wording, and their competitors would launch a volley of complaints the moment the package hit the shelves.

So why is J&J permitted to base its promotion of a consumer product on a vague, meaningless and possibly misleading term, completely unsupported by any attribution to trials or any other form of science? After all, consumers are actually far less able than clinicians to validate and question a claim like "clinically proven mildness".