Cancer jab follow-on

Just a quick(ish) addition to the post I wrote at the start of the week about the Sunday Express' "Jab as deadly as the cancer" article about the cervical cancer jab. Ben Goldacre has covered the story in his Bad Science column, and it's quite damning, especially his conversation with the expert, Dr Diane Harper. I'll repost a paragraph from his article, which speaks for itself.

"...I contacted Professor Harper. For avoidance of doubt, so that there can be no question of me misrepresenting her views, unlike the Express, I will explain Professor Harper’s position on this issue in her own words. They are unambiguous.

“I did not say that Cervarix was as deadly as cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix could be riskier or more deadly than cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix was controversial, I stated that Cervarix is not a ‘controversial drug’. I did not ‘hit out’ – I was contacted by the press for facts. And this was not an exclusive interview.”

Journalists are fallible. We do make mistakes. Occasionally we get the wrong end of the stick. But there's getting something wrong that you haven't understood properly and bending the facts to a state where they can do longer be called facts any longer.

It depressed me, it really does. In an industry that's going through upheaval and can be subject to greater scrutiny than ever from anybody with a computer - and that has serious trust issues - articles like this just serve to undermine the public's trust in journalists even further.

As was highlighted in the Royal Institution debate, the Express can produce good, accurate journalism. And it's always worth asking questions on health issues.

But not like this. This isn't good journalism. It barely even passes as a form of journalism. It's irresponsible writing that has the potential to lead to women needlessly developing cervical cancer.

Did the Sunday Express really think this was an acceptable trade-off for a headline-selling front page?

Like I say, thoroughly depressing.