The Press Council views with concern inadequately researched reports on health and medical matters appearing in the press and in the media as whole. The dangers of exciting unreasonable fears or hopes are far too great for anything but the most careful treatment.
The reporter/writer concerned may not be equipped to judge the value or otherwise of the reported treatments. Statements on efficacy should be treated with extreme care. They should always be sourced, even if made by the most eminent authority; on any lesser authority, they should be cross-checked with some other source. Claims of cures, wonder cures, near-miracles and the like should be clearly identified as just that, claims.
The standing and the disinterest, or lack of it, of those making the claims should be made clear, be they researchers, pharmaceutical companies or other salespeople. In cases where the writer is qualified to make judgment on the subject being reported, the qualification should be identified for the reader.
Personal experience or anecdotal evidence, too, should be clearly identified as such. The reader clearly has the right to ask: "Who says so?" The reports should provide the answer.
The Council recognises the undoubted public interest in health and medical matters, and the difficulties faced by the media in these areas.
A conservative, careful approach to health and medical reports is essential.