Saturday, December 03, 2016

How the media can stop unnecessary doctor bashing

Today, wherever something goes wrong in a  private hospital, the doctor is blamed. He is called negligent , and is often beaten up. There's a lot of unnecessary violence, and doctors get a lot of bad press.  This is why the image of the medical profession suffers.

The aggrieved family approaches a reporter with an emotionally charged story. This if often biased, incomplete and factually wrong. The reporter is happy to carry it, because any story which features negligent doctors gets a lot of attention, and they want to be the first to "break" the story - " if it bleeds, it leads. Sadly,  medical accuracy becomes the  first casualty of this slip shod approach.  A good reporter will try to contact the concerned doctor to get his side of the story. However, doctors are scared of the press, and are usually advised by their lawyer to clam up, as a result of which they are very reluctant to talk to journalists. This is why the reporting is so one-sided and incorrect.

Here's a solution if editors want to make sure that their stories are factually correct.

Each medical college should set up a Press Advisory Board which consists of senior medical teachers. Journalists should be able to reach out to these medical college professors 24/7, who are trusted and respected sources of medical expertise. They would provide them with the medical background they need to be able to make sense of the facts , rather than be swayed by an emotionally upset patient.  This would help to provide a more sympathetic and balanced understanding of  medical complications - the vast majority of which are not due to errors or negligence ! Armed with the right context, doctors would then no longer be painted as villains, and the medical profession would be able to do a better job taking care of patients.

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