A journalist who covers medical matters of the heart grabbed my attention on the Fourth of July. In The Voice of the Patient: Time To Bring Out the Muzzle?, Larry Husten at Forbes’ Cardiobrief blog, insinuates that the women who spoke at the FDA’s Avastin hearings are simpletons.
In his short strip, Husten skips the possibility that the testifying patients might understand science. He dismisses their familiarity with Avastin. He ignores their potential informational value as bona fide outliers, and jumps to this killer conclusion:
…When reporters cater to these type of people they not only foster fuzzy thinking, they encourage a mob mentality that tears down any semblance of rationality or any possibility of intelligent discourse.
Medicine, of course, is all about the patient. But that doesn’t mean that every patient is right, or deserves a public voice, or that uncritical journalists should assist them in metastasizing their views.
This is rare language in a business journal:
Phrases like “these type of people” and “mob mentality” typically reflect fear of others, based in prejudice – the opposite of reason and science, to which the author aspires. Likening patients speaking out to “metastasizing,” a term normally applied to the lethal movement of cancerous cells, reveals a disturbed view of people with illness.
The Forbes Headline, in which the author and editor, or both, contemplate using a “muzzle” to silence patients, does not approach the norm in health care journalism, or even opinion-writing.