Member’s JAMA piece looks at ethical considerations of physician-journalists

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Rita Rubin

Rita Rubin

AHCJ member Rita Rubin explores the tricky territory of working as a doctor and a journalist in a “Medical News & Perspectives” piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

She highlights several examples of physician-journalists who have walked the ethical tight rope, including Nancy Snyderman, Sanjay Gupta, Mehmet Oz, Jennifer Ashton and David Samadi. She also quotes Tom Linden, who left his medical practice to work in television news and points out how important it is to keep the two roles separate, a point he has made in the past.

Rubin notes that AHCJ has established a set of guidelines for physician-journalists:

The Haiti coverage prompted the Association of Health Care Journalists, a professional organization, to convene a committee, on which Linden served, that drew up guidelines for physician-journalists. “Do not exploit vulnerability for gain or glory,” the association advised physician-journalists in a statement (http://bit.ly/1IcQiRq).

Rubin also talked to Robert Bazell, who was a medical and science reporter for NBC News for 38 years and has a doctorate in immunology. “I think there is a danger with physicians on television seeming to be an expert on everything, as opposed to being a journalist looking at both sides of the issue,” Bazell says.

Mike Cirigliano, a full-time internist who appears twice a week on a Philadelphia station, told Rubin that “if he’s working on a story outside his area of expertise, he’ll run his report by a colleague in the relevant specialty.”

Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org, a former CNN medical reporter and frequent critic of doctors’ faulty reporting, is troubled that “We are turning over the responsibility for independently vetting evidence to people who either have not established that expertise or have not established the interest or ability to present it in a balanced manner,” Rubin reports.

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