A bit of a rant about sensationalist reporting of the latest diabetes research today
Before I’d even got out of bed this morning, two kind friends had already messaged me, in congratulatory tones, to say that a cure has been found for Type 1 Diabetes.
No, I wasn’t dreaming – but irresponsible and misleading headlines in quality newspapers that should know better were announcing the cure as if it were a fait accompli. Jaded by previously false reports, I wearily messaged my friends back to say that I wouldn’t believe it until there was further clarification, as I doubted that it could really be true.
False Hopes Dashed
I didn’t need to wait long to have my doubts confirmed. Tuning in to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, presenter Justin Webb (whose son has Type 1 diabetes, so knows about these things) interviewed someone from the JDRF, the leading charitable funder of the search for better therapy and a cure. “It can’t really be true, can it?” he asked tentatively. Sadly, the JDRF person agreed.
What has happened is that a major breakthrough has been made by Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University in stem cell technology. It could – eventually – be a vital piece of a huge jigsaw in making a cure available, but it has not yet been tested on people, and even when it has been, it doesn’t spell an instant cure. Even should a cure become technically possible, it doesn’t mean it will be universally available or affordable.
But you could forgive anyone reading the paper to think “Oh good, so we’ve cured Type 1 diabetes. I’ll stop donating to JDRF. Let’s move on to the next thing. How about ebola?”
No Sympathy for the Press
I understand that the newspaper industry is having hard times. It needs to sell papers. And it needs appealing headlines to sell papers. But it is heartless, thoughtless and destructive to emblazon such misleading headlines on the front page. It’s not information, it’s misinformation. The majority of readers won’t have read to the end of the piece, where tucked away on the second page, it is finally stated that a cure may still be many years off. Not only has it misinformed the masses, but it’s also upset those with Type 1 diabetes and their families, by creating false hopes only to dash them again. It will take time to undo that damage.
So, to be clear – no, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes – yet. Much more funding and research is needed to get us there. But there is hope, provided we keep raising money for research and raising awareness of the need.
But for now, and for the forseeable future, we’ll keep taking the
tablets insulin, and the bathroom in our house will continue to resemble a minor branch of Bootsthe Chemist.
And I’ll carry on campaigning. Next month, I’ll be launching the new paperback edition of Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, with a foreword by Justin Webb. Well, we seekers of truth and reason have to stick together, you know. And The Times really needs to get a grip.
- If you’d like an invitation to the launch of my book at Foyles, Bristol on 13th November, please contact me to reserve a place.
- If you’d like to find out more about the great work done by the JDRF, visit http://www.jdrf.org.uk.
- To read about some research being done at my local hospital, see my recent post: Tour of Hope at Southmead Hopsital