by Mary Elizabeth Williams
January 11, 2013
Everyone appreciates a bright perspective, especially in grim circumstances. But you know what’s a really poor arena for downplaying the bad news? Medicine.
A new report in the Annals of Oncology this week reveals that in two thirds of breast cancer studies, side effects were downplayed – including serious ones. And, as Reuters reports, it’s a field-wide problem in the health care industry: Last fall, cardiology journal editors warned authors to “watch their language” in reporting, and pediatrics researchers warned of “spin and boasting” in their journals.
Aside from the ethical issues of publishing misleading information, the habit of rushing to make it all seem better has serious consequences. Because the sunnyside talk doesn’t stop at the journals. It trickles over to doctors, who then minimize what a patient’s real experience is going to be like. More