Friday, July 01, 2011

Doctor bashing in the media

The series of articles on "sex change operations" in the Hindustan Times is a great example for how poor reporting leads to doctor bashing.

The articles are poorly written - the reporter has not done her homework or tried to verify the facts. It's just a hotch potch of botched statements, many of which are speculative and incorrect

For example, she writes - " While genitoplasty experts of Indore say each of them have turned 200 to 300 girls into ‘boys’ so far, only one could cite an instance where a 14-year-old was converted into a girl. "

This means she's not bothered to verify her facts - it's just a series of statements based on what some doctors have claimed ! She seems to have talked to just one parent - and not even bothered to check with an independent expert pediatric surgeon as to what these surgeries are used for in reality ! For example, she could have spoken to the pediatric surgeons at AIIMS, who have published an excellent article on " Male Genitoplasty for Intersex Disorders" which is available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2581734/, to find out when genitoplasty is performed.

Rather than feeling sorry for these unfortunate children and their traumatised parents, she has created a lot of hyperbole about how these surgeries are being resorted to in the hundreds every year - and how these can create a major imbalance in the sex ratio ! This headline has now lead to a national clamour for an inquiry into these surgeries - and the need for a law to regulate them !

I can understand why reporters do such a shoddy job . They often have time constraints; little
technical expertise; and need to sell their papers, so are happy to use provocative sentences.

What amazes me is why the medical profession has kept quiet about this. In fact, the silence is deafening ! Shouldn't the IMA or the Pediatric Association have presented the medical facts, to prevent this kind of distortion ?

What's even more disappointing is that no other senior medical journalist has bothered to counter check the story - or put it in the right perspective !

This story has hammered one more nail in the coffin of the medical profession's reputation, for no rhyme or reason ! It's surprising that doctors in India don't want their children to become doctors anymore.

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