Press Complaints Commission defends Sunday Times’ rewriting of medical history

If you were the PCC, how would you defend a newspaper’s claim that British Airways, for example, rather than the Wright brothers, pioneered flight? Simple: rewrite the definition of the word “pioneer”!

Incredibly, this is how low those who are charged with upholding standards in the press are willing to stoop in order to defend the media’s wilful misrepresentation of facts concerning animal experimentation. This concerns Safer Medicines Campaign because we exist to expose the truth about the best means to discover and develop treatments for patients and to ensure their safety.

The truth is that medical progress is overwhelmingly the result of human clinical observation and studies of human tissues and human disease, rather than research based on animal “models” of human disease. In fact, patients are frequently harmed by reliance on misleading data from animal experimentation. We do not oppose animal experimentation per se but we do believe that it should cease to be given precedence over human-focused testing. Greater focus on research based on human biology would accelerate medical progress and improve the safety of treatments for patients.

But defenders of animal experimentation often claim that medical breakthroughs depended on animal experimentation, refusing to acknowledge that the pivotal discoveries were made in humans (or in vitro) and only later recapitulated in animal models. Their mission is to convince people that animal experimentation is crucial to medical progress. In their eagerness to make their point, truth is often jettisoned in favour of good copy. Editorial codes stipulating accuracy do not appear to apply to this particular topic, as we have found many times.

Read more here.

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