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By Dr Angelo Appiotti

The (false) summer promise of a super (hero-like) vision

By 13 December 2019No Comments
The (false) summer promise of a super (hero-like) vision

Last year in July I posted on my blog an article titled “The (false) promise of a Steel Jeeg-like vision”. On that occasion I voiced my concerns about a sloppy, and sometimes even inaccurate, article that I had read on a famous sports magazine.
It has already been a year since then. I was flicking through a newspaper when I stumbled into an article in that same vein. I will not dwell too much on its questionable content (https://appiotti.com/en/2019/12/13/the-false-promise-of-a-steel-jeeg-like-vision/), but I will try and explain what is problematic with the article.
Before we start, let’s make something clear: a newspaper article is not ideal for science popularisation, as what it asks of the journalist is to explore a topic and explain it objectively to the readers, recounting facts and events in the most effective and comprehensive way possible. Therefore, it is immediately apparent how hard it is to cover specialist topics such as refractive surgery and be able to point out the flaws and limits of a surgery technique.
Then again, it is only natural for journalists to try to find news that are compelling and exciting, so, for example, if a small step forward is made in cancer research, the headlines will scream “MODERN MEDICINE DEFEATS CANCER” and so on. Therefore, a doctor just has to announce that he or she has made an incredible discovery to grab the media’s attention. Since people tend not to challenge a doctor’s ideas and statements, it is up to the scientific community to debunk such theories, but when they finally do, in most cases those wrong ideas have already started to spread thanks to the media. This was the case for theories such as that of autism being caused by vaccines and that of Vannoni’s stem-cell therapy, which are not supported by scientific evidence, and yet have been sucked into the vortex of media and have prevailed over other theories and treatments that are actually effective.
And that is what it is all about: nowadays newspapers are only seen as a way to gain fame and publicity regardless of their content being misinformation or not. Half a page on a newspaper is not, nor will it ever be enough to analyse a medical theory or technique. There are more appropriate places from where to retrieve such information, like specialist journals, scientific blogs and forums where thousands of data on the efficacy of different techniques are analysed and reviewed.
If you are not sure on how to approach websites such as pubMed (database that collects the most relevant medical articles of the last few years), then go to your doctor or to a specialist, they will surely know how to help. As a matter of fact, a good doctor must act as an intermediary between the patient and the latest scientific discoveries. I am not suggesting that only a doctor knows what is best, or that all doctors are honest professionals who only care about their patients’ well-being with no ulterior motive, however there is no doubt as to the fact that health professionals are better equipped to handle the ever-increasing flow of information we must deal with every day.
Last but not least, a newspaper article cannot be considered a reliable source of medical information: it may be the starting point of further research, at most. It is always dangerous for a journalist to claim that something is definitely true when they do not have the means nor the ability to verify it. Please remember that spreading information is a huge responsibility and that sloppiness may cause considerable damage. We should not forget the mistakes made by misinformation and we ought to try to be transparent when we communicate, both as health professionals and as information sources.