Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Suddenly Sick: The Foibles of Medical Science

Climate science and medical science have things in common. Including suspect behaviour on the part of the United Nations.

In recent weeks, my research has taken me in the direction of medical science. Regrettably, it appears to harbour as many bad actors as does climate science.

The medical field also seems to have an abundance of super-smart people who nevertheless possess limited imaginations. An ability to see beyond their small corner of the universe, to anticipate how their own actions might impact the lives of others, often appears lacking.

This brings to mind a confrontation in the film Aliens, between the female lead and the stereotypical slimy corporate guy. After it has become apparent that his failure to provide third parties with all of the available information has led directly to their deaths, he admits he made a ‘bad call.’ Her response:

Bad call? These people are dead, Burke! Don’t you have any idea what you’ve done here?!

(A brief audio clip of that confrontation may be heard here.)

On a more positive note, my exploration of medical matters has reminded me that while journalism is currently in crisis (most of the media abandoned all pretence of professionalism and neutrality in the lead-up and aftermath of the most recent US election), good journalism is a joy to behold when it occurs.

Preserved by the miracle of the Internet, fantastic investigative journalism can continue to enlighten us years after its original publication/broadcast.

I’ve spent the past few days entranced by a five-part series published by the Seattle Times back in 2005. Titled “Suddenly Sick: The hidden big business behind your doctor’s diagnosis,” it’s the product of months of research by journalists Susan Kelleher and Duff Wilson.

They interviewed more than a hundred people, examined thousands of pages of documents, and produced meaty analysis the implications of which are still exploding like firecrackers inside my brain.

One of the many things I didn’t know: the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) accepts tons of money from huge pharmaceutical companies. Then it writes guidelines defining conditions such as obesity and high blood pressure – including at what cutoff points doctors should be prescribing the very medications these companies manufacture.

A Seattle Times executive explains that a pattern emerged as the journalists

explored various aspects of the guidelines system. The numbers always moved in the same direction, with the boundaries of disease – and the market for drugs – expanding.

“We never saw an opposite example,” [the managing editor] said.

Gee, remind you of anything?

‘Suddenly Sick’ was apparently a wildly popular series. Afterward, the newspaper collected it together as a special, 15-page PDF reprint which is free to download. It’s perfectly readable as an electronic document, but I took the file into an office supply store and had it printed on larger-than-normal paper so I could highlight paragraphs and write notes in the margins.

I’m still processing this remarkable achievement. Here’s a roadmap:

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This entry was posted on March 29, 2017 by in activist scientists, media, money & funding and tagged , , .
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