Medical advice in press is often unsuitable, sometimes dangerous
Information dispensed in medical advice columns in newspapers is often inappropriate and sometimes dangerous, according to a recent Canadian study.
Dr Frank Molnar, from the division of geriatric medicine at Ottawa Hospital's civic campus, and his colleagues found that the content in half of 50 advice columns randomly selected from a total of 109 Canadian English language columns was unsuitable for, and in 28% of cases potentially life threatening to, intended senior readers (Canadian Medical Association Journal 1999;161:393-5). The columns were published in 11 dailies during 1995 and dealt with topics that could be found in a textbook o geriatric medicine.
Five geriatricians rated the articles, all of which were written by doctors, according to whether the articles were clearly targeted at the intended audience and whether they distinguished opinion from fact, the extent to which key issues were highlighted, and the safety and appropriateness of the advice provided. The