An astute Crikey reader today pointed out an error in a Sydney Morning Herald report of this Medical Journal of Australia article about the child protection issues surrounding severely obese children.
The SMH story described how the case of four-year-old Jade was reported to DOCS because of concerns about her parents’ unwillingness to do anything about the obesity which was causing serious health problems.
But it omitted the MJA note that “patient and case details are an amalgamation of those from several different patients to protect patient confidentiality” – that Jade does not exist.
In the interests of fairness, it’s worth noting that the Daily Telegraph report also made it look as though Jade is a real girl.
The Age, at least, noted that Jade is “a fictional case study”.
Don’t you love the internet and access to primary sources?
I too read the original MJA article and noted the way every news outlet had a pretty twisted account of what it was actually about. The actual article was saying that DOCS already get involved with some obese kids in extreme situations — using the fictional Jade case as an example — and suggested they needed clearer guidlelines on how and when this should occur. Yet the media either ran with it as a doctor urging authorities to “take kids away” from their parents if they get too fat, or, as you say, ran with Jade AS the story (the Hun’s original headline was something particularly stupid like “Obese girl, 4, throws tantrums when she can’t eat what she wants”).
Now, I’m guessing the MJA put out a press release originally, and that was what garnered all this attention in the first place, and it’s possible that, as often happens with more scientific journals, they sexed the story up a bit and thus the journos got the wrong end of the stick. But nevertheless, the original article is very easily available online, is pretty short, and is simple to understand. The reporters should have read it, and none of the articles I read on it indicated that they had bothered — and if they did, they then blatantly misrepresented what it was saying, which is even worse.
Thanks to the crikey tipoff, I posted a comment on the Daily Tele website yesterday (at the link you supplied above). Strangely enough, my comment has not been published.