There has been talk for years now about how blogging will kill off 'mainstream' media (MSM) like newspapers – I'm yet to see it happen. After all the benefits of a newspaper and the organisation behind it are obvious, they have people who go out looking for news while a large amount of 'news' blogging is repeating and commenting on stories put out by commercial media websites.
The strength of this commenting culture is that 'experts' on the story being discussed can weigh in where the journalist originally writing the story may only have limited knowledge of the subject involved. An example of this would be where I discuss an ambulance story that is currently in the news.
Mainstream media should do what it does best, research around stories, find experts to corroborate what they believe is happening and provide well thought out copy. Unlike many bloggers they should have the resources and, most importantly, time, to fully round out a story.
Of course it doesn't always work like that.
Health Service paramedics have been told not to resuscitate terminally-ill patients who register on a controversial new database to say they want to die.
It has been set up by the ambulance service in London for hundreds of people who have only a few months to live so that they may register their 'death wishes' in advance.
…and so it goes – while I have linked to the Daily Mail, this story appeared all across the media, for example 'This is London' is especially crazy. I have no idea where this story originated, I suspect a pro-life organisation issued a press release and the various journalists jumped on it as an 'interesting' story.
Of course, the truth didn't enter into it.
So it was up to the LAS to respond, and so they issued this release,
Reports in the media today (17 April) about the resuscitation of patients involved in serious accidents are misleading.
We have a system whereby patients with longer-term or complicated medical conditions can ask for a specific treatment to be carried out if we are called to them, or for them to be taken to a preferred place of care.
These are a very small number of patients who we will normally attend at home and with whom a written agreement is in place. It is inaccurate to suggest that this approach would be taken with patients involved in serious accidents.
These agreements are often used to give guidance to our staff on how to proceed with treatment in very complicated clinical cases.
They document what the patient’s requirements and wishes are and may refer, for example, to places of care, preferred treatment options, do not resuscitate advice, and home care requirements.
These details are kept in a secure database which can be accessed by our control room staff. This information can then be passed on to staff attending patients at the addresses on our system.
The ambulance crew will then be able to provide the most appropriate care to the patient taking into account the details kept on our records about their wishes and clinical needs.
There are currently 1,624 patients with their details registered on our system.
But, of course, the retractions weren't exactly forthright. The damage had been done and with no real right to reply, I suspect that a few of our patient's have been looking at ambulance staff in a different light.
That isn't the point, the point is that the journalists writing this story could have easily found out the truth, that we aren't going to go to a car crash and refuse to resuscitate someone, that we aren't bringing in 'death wristbands' and that, in fact, of the 1,624 people on the treatment database the only a few are 'do not resuscitate orders.
I'd guess that the majority of the people on this database are only on it because they suffer from sickle cell crisis and the database has their preferred hospital on it.
In the case of 'do not resuscitate' orders, it is not the ambulance service that initiates these things, it is the patient's GP and the team at the hospital – we just get informed of these decisions due to their need for ambulance transport to hospital.
Where patients have complex conditions the details often state what treatments are, and are not, recommended for the patient. We have a few on my patch, mostly children with severe medical conditions.
While I might expect such lurid headlines and misrepresentation of the facts from a blogger (because we don't always have the time to research something we are writing on account of our 'day jobs'), I would have hoped for better from people who are paid to write these things.
The newspapers should stick to what they can do best, fully researched stories and information gathered with the money and time that these organisations have. They should stop printing press releases as if they were facts in an effort to fill column inches of come up with the most lurid story that they can.
Oh, and swine 'flu? I'm not panicking over it, and I try to have forty days worth of tinned food in my house at all times in case of an actual serious pandemic.
The LAS has issued utterly sensible advice to it's staff that I suspect we will ignore.
The advice is to leave the patient at home if the symptoms aren't too serious and contact the patient's GP. However most ambulance crews are aware that if the patient then drops dead (of something completely unrelated) it will be the roadstaff's fault and we'd end up risking our job not taking them to hospital. After all, we aren't doctors, so how do we know who we can leave at home? How can we predict who will have a cytokine storm?
Nope – if this does go pandemic I predict A&E waiting rooms full of people with 'flu who make their own way there if the ambulance refuses to take them, all crying out for anti-virals. Then medical staff will get sick and some folks will die because of that rather than from the 'flu itself.
But that won't make the headlines – what will make the headlines will be the death from 'flu, someone who would have died from any 'flu.
And of course, once the storm has settled NHS management will start disciplining those who had the temerity to catch the 'flu themselves and go sick…
(erm… the title of this post has nothing to do with this section about 'flu, just in case you thought I was wishing for some sort of 'humanity die-off' from the 'flu).