February 28, 2024

Too much inaccuracy in Terri Schiavo coverage, says bioethicist

Case reveals the emergence of a pro-life social stream, says researcher
A review of media coverage of the Terri Schiavo case coordinated by a Canadian bioethicist has found that many published stories contained significant inaccuracies. A total of 1,141 articles and over 400 letters to the editor in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Tampa Tribune and the St Petersburg Times were analyzed by Dr Eric Racine of the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal. His article has appeared in an advance issue of the journal Neurology.

Dr Racine says that some journalists even claimed that Mrs Schiavo’s reactions to specific words or expressions showed that she was conscious. Only 1% of the articles gave a definition of the "persistent vegetative state," an essential concept to understand the issues at stake. And despite the fact that her medical condition did not allow any reasonable hope of recovery, a fifth of all articles hinted that she would improve. "Our observations show that the press capitalised on the controversy to a large extent, and selling copies mattered more than delivering scientific information. Media coverage sustained myths and false hopes," says Dr Racine.

"This case is quite original because it reveals the emergence of a pro-life social stream, a trend that has now reached Canada," adds Dr Racine. ~ Canadian Business, Aug 6