It’s not just annoying, it’s downright unethical when medical news reports use misleading headlines.
Take this example:
An article from the US Department of Health and Human Services (9/30/08) focused on a French study exploring a link between the hepatitis B vaccine given to children and multiple sclerosis (MS). The headline reads: “Link between vaccine and MS unproven.”
I was quickly skimming through a list of online article titles when I came across this one. At first blush I assumed it meant there’s not a connection and I was ready to move on. But I decided to click on the header to see the article anyway. And guess what I learned? If children received a particular brand of the hepatitis B vaccine, they were twice as likely to develop MS. How alarming!
Why not a headline that read: “Children receiving Engerix B hepatitis vaccine twice as likely to develop MS.” That’s the sad truth, and it’s what doctors and families need to know.
But then, it is a government agency’s article on vaccines — that pretty much says it all.
Another popular line that gets flashed around is that a particular drug is “proven safe and effective.” This often means that a majority of people, often children, did not show significant reactions in 4 to 6 weeks. No headline mention of side effects among others, no mention of the need for longer studies at different ages. But, busy docs see the headline, get the intended “message” and move on.