Tag Archives: libel

CNN in the hot seat: Using numbers without context has consequences

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: stevenharman via Flickr

How many times have you wanted to make a comparison between two numbers — a local rate and national rate, or some kind of rate for one type of surgery vs another, or one demographic group vs another … but you didn’t have the comparison statistics you needed?

What did you do? Did you write around the issue and choose a different angle or framing? Did you cobble together the number you needed from different sources? Did you use a similar number but include qualifications about limitations of the comparison? Continue reading

UK reporter gains ground in chiropractor libel suit

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

UK journalist Simon Singh has gained ground in his ongoing defense against a libel suit leveled by British chiropractors, with the reversal of a ruling that had said his words were (potentially libelous) fact instead of (protected) commentary. The words in question included the assertion that the British Chiropractic Associationhappily promotes bogus treatments.”

spine
Photo by Dave McLean via Flickr

The dispute has been over whether or not his words imply that the BCA was being consciously dishonest and deceptive.

Covering Health has written about UK libel cases in the past, and this case has received a fair amount of attention, but those who haven’t been following the Singh case can find a competent primer on Wikipedia.

The BBC calls it a “landmark ruling,” then explains:

BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.

The BBC reported that Singh praised the ruling and said the legal wind finally seemed to be at his back, but that he bemoaned the fact that it had cost £200,000 to get to that point.

“The Court of Appeal’s made a very wise decision, but it just shouldn’t be so horrendously expensive for a journalist or an academic journal or a scientist to defend what they mean.

“That’s why people back off from saying what they really mean.”

(Hat tip to Knight Science Journalism Tracker)

GE uses UK libel law to silence Danish researcher

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Following in the footsteps of several other device manufacturers and medical interests, GE Healthcare is using UK libel laws, which some describe as “draconian,” to attempt to muzzle a Danish physician who helped discover links between the GE drug Omniscan and the debilitating and sometimes fatal disease nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.

ProPublica’s Jeff Gerth, who has been all over the Omniscan story for a while now, reports in The Sunday Times (and on ProPublica) on the lawsuit and the science, economics and politics behind it. The prominent Danish researcher, who noticed the link after a number of his patients came down with NSF, delivered a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation in Oxford in 2006 in which he referred to Omniscan as a potential “medical hurricane.” To date, GE has spent more than $600,000 fighting the claims with a libel suit.