Kate Johnson's Medical Musings

Life through the eyes of a medical journalist

Infertility is Many Losses

December 31, 2009                                                                  Also published on iVillage:

By Kate Johnson

“There is a residue of experience in life that continues to shape us long after the actual experience has ended. We stretch and grow and learn a lot while living through it. Then we learn a little more after we’ve had some distance. We carry from such experiences indelible memories, and if it was a particularly bad experience there’s usually some unfinished business.”

So writes Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos in her book Silent Sorority the story of her journey through infertility, and finally her coming to terms with childlessness. At 46, Pamela is two years older than me. Like me, she is coming to the end of her reproductive years, which for both of us were scarred by infertility treatments and failures.

I have never met Pamela, but she contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to read her book. I doubt she knew my story.

Over my years of infertility I have honed my journalistic skills into an expertise in reproductive medicine – writing for both physicians and the public. But I rarely write about my personal battle. Continue reading

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December 31, 2009 Posted by | Fertility | , | 5 Comments

Just Trying to do My Job

December 11, 2009

By Kate Johnson

Yesterday I posted a blog about how a TV station boosted the power of the British Medical Journal in making pharmaceutical giant Roche more accountable for questions about its antiviral drug oseltamivir  (Tamiflu).

I called this unusual partnership a giant leap for science because it achieved the goal of publicizing a problem in medical research.

Medical reporters and medical journals should have the same goals: namely to disseminate important medical information to a wider audience – be it the public, or the research community.

But unfortunately, I recently had the opposite experience with a medical journal.

A few weeks ago I attended a medical conference and heard an excellent presentation which I added to my list of articles to write for International Medical News Group.

I interviewed the researcher, and asked for her powerpoint slides– to make sure my article was accurate.

The next day she e-mailed me her apologies. She had attended a workshop on publication ethics delivered by the editors of a medical journal *.

“They informed me that I should not send you my slides and that this could jeopardize publication,” she wrote. “Clearly this is a difficult area. I’m happy to work with you on the article, but with this information, I feel I can’t send the slides.”

I wrote to the journal editors to register my complaint. Continue reading

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Big Pharma and the Media: Reporters should work with Medical Journals for More Accountability

December 10, 2009

By Kate Johnson

The media is more often criticized than praised when it comes to reporting health and medical stories, but one recent example highlights an important role for the media in the field of medicine.

The pharmaceutical giant Roche is facing pressure from the medical community about accountability  – and the media is playing a valuable role.

This week, the British Medical Journal published a string of articles, an editorial, and an account of a media/medical journal investigation that “cast doubt not only on the effectiveness and safety of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) but on the system by which drugs are evaluated, regulated, and promoted,” writes Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the BMJ. Continue reading

December 10, 2009 Posted by | medical ethics, Medical Writing | , , | 3 Comments