(publishing this in a bit of a hurry – I’ll tidy up links & references later)
On Monday night I chanced across an article on the BBC website (Cancer jab alert after girl dies
- Note the date and time – it’s saying Tuesday at 3.30PM – but was definitely published the night before – I’d say around 10.45 PM) regarding the sad death of a 13 (Now updated to 14 on the BBC site) year old girl Natalie Morton. It said that this was ‘after’ her cervical cancer jab.
It didn’t imply directly that the cancer jab had caused her death – but left the inference hanging for all who cared to make it.
Reading a little deeper, I gleaned that this girl had died only the same day – it was likely that there were friends members of her extended family that were not yet aware of her death, and yet already the story was headline news. Clearly not because of her death per se, but because of a perceived link with the cervical cancer jab.
It struck me immediately as a somewhat irresponsible piece of reporting. Clearly there was as yet no evidence of causation or correlation between this girls death and the cancer jab, and clearly this story would send panic through many thousands of young girls and their families as they await their turn for the injection.
It struck me also that any risk to the public – even if there was a direct causal link between the jab and the girls untimely death – was still so slight as to make any wait until after the post morten was complete before reporting a prudent and sensible decision. Given also that the logic of probability would suggest that it was more likely than not, at that stage that the girl’s death had been due to causes other than the cancer jab.
The story went out though, and by morning was receiving saturation coverage – on the front page of The Times for instance. ( This story was by no means exclusive to the Times & the Beeb).
At around 8.15 in the morning, my wife ( a nurse by profession) received a call from a very anxious friend asking her advice as to whether to allow her daughter to have the injection that day. “Go ahead !” was her advice. However I strongly suspect that the advice was not followed.
In due course we’re told that the girl’s death was probably due to an underlying serious medical condition, and that the vaccination programme can go ahead regardless. The damage is done though. the drug is tarnished, and will be for the foreseable future, and it’s likely that several thousand young girls who would have had this injection, will now not do.
This incensed me. Partly because of the general public’s failure to grasp simple scientific logic. To understand that a death which happens after an injection, does not mean that the death was caused by the injection; but more seriously I was incensed by the way in which the press appear to deliberately exploit this ignorance – to promote mass panic and fear, and ultimately to discourage people from protecting themselves against the HPV virus. I have no doubt at all that as an indirect result of the sloppy reporting of this incident, some girls who are now 13, will at some time in the future suffer from cervical cancer.
What possible motive could any reporter, any journalist, have for reporting in this way ?
Why would they want to do this ?
It took a while before the penny dropped.
They did it because the story dropped into their lap on the eve of Gordon Brown’s speech at the Labour Party conference. They did it beacuse they couldn’t believe their luck that a human interest story which would discredit a Government initiative had come their way the night before Gordon’s fight back speech.
They ran the story with the simple aim of discrediting the prime minster.
They didn’t care that a young girl had died. They didn’t care that young girls now will die as a partial result of their actions in years to come. They didn’t care that the report suggested a link that was unlikely to be verified.
They just did it to try and get their man elected.
Well I am disgusted at this tactic.
If there are people who want Labour to be defeated so much that they have to resort to odious tactics such as this. to distorting and misrepresenting the truth with no concern for the public interest, or the private interests of a grieving family, then it suggests to me that there must be some very good reasons for keeping Labour in power.
The election campaign has barely started, but already the ‘forces of conservatism’ in seeking to smear Gordon Brown’s government have convinced me absolutely of my intention to Vote Labour at the General Election.