CORRESPONDENCE WITH SUNDAY TIMES

From: kathy@safermedicines.org
To: Sunday Times Letters
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 1:32 PM
Subject: letter to the Editor

Sir,

The Sunday Times Magazine does its readers a grave disservice by publishing such a one-sided and factually incorrect article as “How would you feel if you were an animal caged for scientific testing?” (January 10). The byline (“We… put the scientists’ rationale to the test”) claims to examine critically the scientific case for animal testing. Yet the article does no such thing. Instead, it presents one of the greatest scientific controversies of our time as indisputable.

The hand-wringing focus on the ethical "agonising dilemmas" is the time-honoured ploy of lobbyists for animal testing to divert attention from their untenable scientific position. In fact, scientific journals are replete with scientists lamenting the failings of animal tests and the disastrous consequences for human health. This is not just an argument over animal rights, as the Sunday Times would have readers believe: it is a major public health issue. 243 MPs and 83% of GPs agree and have called for a scientific evaluation of animal tests for drug safety, which currently contribute to the hospitalisation of a million Britons a year and the deaths of many thousands (see www.SaferMedicines.org).

Not only did the article censor all opposing science but the science that it did present was entirely incorrect. For example, its central claim that deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease was pioneered in monkeys is false: it was actually pioneered in patients*. Readers could be forgiven for concluding that this piece of propaganda was commissioned by the powerful and pervasive pro-animal testing lobby.

*see New Scientist article attached


From: kathy@safermedicines.org
To: Cathy Galvin
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 4:05 PM
Subject: article proposal

Dear Ms Galvin

Further to our telephone conversation this morning, I am writing to offer to supply an article illustrating the harms to patients frequently caused by animal testing, in order to balance the extraordinarily one-sided and inaccurate article (“How would you feel if you were an animal caged for scientific testing?”) published on Sunday.

I have sent a letter (below) to the letters Editor and I hope very much it will be published. However, even if it is published, it is necessarily very brief and not at all sufficient in terms of correcting the imbalance created by Sunday’s feature-length article.

As you know, the Editors’ Code of Practice stipulates that the Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and that the Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

The article in question breaches the code, both in terms of accuracy and in presenting opinion and comment in the guise of fact. It misrepresents its own stated purpose of putting scientists’ rationale to the test and misrepresents an issue which could not be more important for medicine as simply a dispute over animal rights. This is the antithesis of objective journalism.

In the interests of balance, the Sunday Times owes it to its readers to publish an opposing piece, which Safer Medicines Campaign, an independent patient safety organisation, would be delighted to supply.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Archibald
Director
Safer Medicines Campaign


From: Kathy Archibald
Sent: 15 January 2010 10:57
To: Galvin, Cathy
Subject: article proposal
Importance: High
Dear Ms Galvin

I’m sorry if you did not receive my email (below) sent on Wednesday. I am sending it again from my other address to make sure it reaches you. Please accept my apologies if you receive it twice. 

In view of the news of the long-awaited thalidomide settlement, in which the Sunday Times was so instrumental, I would like to suggest that we could supply an article with a focus on thalidomide and its iconic status as the drug that launched the legal requirement for animal testing. The supreme irony is that animal tests would still approve thalidomide as a new drug today: see http://www.thenational.ae/article/20081201/FRONTIERS/821454234/1036/FOREIGN.

Actor and thalidomider Mat Fraser is a Patron of Safer Medicines Campaign and would be happy to be featured in the article, or could even write it for you. You can see him near the beginning of our 26 minute film, Safer Medicines, or in the 3 minute trailer, here: http://www.SaferMedicines.org/safermedicines. He recently starred in "Cast Offs" on Channel 4, screened in December.

Alternatively, we could supply an article focusing on the superior methods now available to medical research and the many breakthroughs they are producing.

I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Yours sincerely,

Kathy Archibald


From: Galvin, Cathy
To: Kathy Archibald
Sent: Friday, January 15, 2010 6:45 PM
Subject: RE: article proposal

Dear Kathy

Thank you. I’ll think about this. Cathy

Cathy Galvin
Deputy Editor
The Sunday Times Magazine


From: Kathy Archibald
To: Galvin, Cathy
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:37 AM
Subject: Re: article proposal

Dear Cathy

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information.

Kathy


From: Kathy Archibald
Sent: 05 February 2010 17:08
To: Galvin, Cathy
Subject: Fw: article proposal
Dear Cathy

Three weeks have passed since you said (below) that you would think about my proposal. I do appreciate that, as you said when I telephoned last Wednesday, you are very busy. But your lack of response suggests that you do not take seriously my point that the article printed in your magazine on 10th January breached the Editors’ Code of Practice in important respects.

The Code of Practice requires that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence. The article in question contained a very significant inaccuracy, which its author, Richard Girling, has acknowledged. I explained the significance of the inaccuracy in an email on 19th January to the Letters Editor, Parin Janmohamed, and to you. I said:

"Richard Girling’s admission that DBS was first discovered in patients means that his words: "pioneered in monkeys" are not true. This is not trivial and cannot simply be overlooked as inconsequential. In fact, it could not be more significant. Public opinion on the acceptability of animal experimentation – particularly its most controversial element, i.e. brain research in primates – is influenced overwhelmingly by the magnitude of its purported value to human health. Producing treatments for distressing disorders like Parkinson’s disease provides a powerful argument in defence of such controversial research. However, if such claimed successes are actually the fruit of research in humans, then such justification is utterly false."

I believe that this inaccuracy deserves to be corrected, with due prominence, especially since, as I pointed out in my 19th January email, the claim that DBS was pioneered in monkeys was used by Richard Girling as the central premise of his article. Thus the entire article misled your readers and distorted the truth, since the ‘facts’ on which it was based were incorrect. The article was full of exaggerated claims for the benefits of animal experimentation, which were not challenged and were presented as facts: another breach of the Code, which says that the Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Prompt correction is no longer possible, since my concerns have been ignored for a month already, but I believe that the Sunday Times has a responsibility to its readers to correct the inaccuracy and the imbalance created by this article as soon as possible. I have offered to supply an appropriate article and offered to fit in with your schedule even so far as suggesting that publication could be defererred to May or even June, since you said that your pages are scheduled a couple of months or more in advance.

If you wish to commit to publishing an article from us within the next few months, we will be delighted to oblige. Please let me know as soon as possible whether you are willing to make such a commitment.

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Kathy


From: Galvin, Cathy
To: Kathy Archibald
Cc: Janmohamed, Parin
Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 5:16 PM
Subject: RE: article proposal

Dear Kathy

I must have misunderstood.

I thought you had approached me because you wanted us to consider an article? I said we would but couldn’t guarantee it.

I will go back to the correspondence. If it’s an apology you want that is quite another matter and I will refer this back to the Letters Editor so we can discuss.

Cathy 
Cathy Galvin
Deputy Editor
The Sunday Times Magazine


From: Kathy Archibald
Sent: 24 February 2010 09:18
To: Galvin, Cathy
Cc: Janmohamed, Parin
Subject: Re: article proposal
Dear Cathy

Another two and a half weeks have passed since you said (below) that you would go back to the correspondence but I have still had no reply to the points I have been making all along.

My correspondence has been clear from the start, six weeks ago, that I am seeking a correction. As I have already explained clearly and repeatedly below, and in my further email of 19th January, you printed an article on 10th January that breached the Editors’ Code of Practice and which must, therefore, be corrected, promptly and with due prominence. Would you like us to help by providing an article?

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Kathy


From: Galvin, Cathy
To: Kathy Archibald
Cc: Janmohamed, Parin
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:55 PM
Subject: RE: article proposal
Dear Kathy

We don’t need an article at this time.

I gather the letters editor is dealing with your request for a correction.

Best, Cathy 
Cathy Galvin
Deputy Editor
The Sunday Times Magazine

 

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