Health reporting by 60 Minutes refereed
In a study by the American Council on Science and Health, each of 97 obtainable transcripts of health stories that aired from 1978 to 1995 on CBS Television’s 60 Minutes was reviewed and evaluated for accuracy of reporting by three or more experts. Errors of inattention to evidence and of imprudence were common. Reporting accuracy was judged only fair, on average. Among the segments receiving the best evaluation scores were: a 1994 segment that debunked “facilitated communication” for autism; a 1991 segment that refuted Scientology’s objections to Prozac; reports about pharmaceutical companies mishandling information about adverse effects of drugs in 1982 (Selacryn) and 1983 (Oraflex); and a 1978 segment that exposed a dubious cancer clinic in Murietta Hot Springs, California. Poor scores were given to segments that promoted: removal of mercury-amalgam fillings (1990); “immunoaugmentative therapy” against cancer (1980); “Doc Willard’s Wonder Water” (1981); tinted lenses to treat dyslexia (1989); positive outlook and visualization to cure cancer (1987); “shark cartilage” against cancer (1993); DMSO–dimethyl sulfoxide-for pain relief (1980); and “cell therapy,” deprenyl, and human growth hormone for longevity (1993).
(London WM et al. Expert reviews of health reports on CBS Television’s 60 Minutes, 1978-1995. Technology 7:539-552;2000.)
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