William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Hepatitis C tore through Las Vegas in February 2008, prompting health officials to call for 40,000 people to be tested for the disease. With estimates of more than 100 cases stemming from the outbreak and possibly thousands of infections that went unreported, it was later declared the largest Hepatitis C outbreak in US history, putting more people at risk than all previous outbreaks combined.
Dr. F.D. Toms, a New Jersey doctor, found himself in a bind.
Rumors had been running around town that he had been sleeping with another man’s wife. The spurned husband, William Smith, showed up at the doctor’s office demanding to see him.
Toms panicked. Seeing Smith charging at him, Toms grabbed a container of sulphuric acid and threw it in Smith’s face. Toms said later that he thought he had grabbed a bottle of ammonia.
Antidote started as a way to share innovative investigative ideas in health reporting, in part by highlighting reporters who have done an exceptional job digging for great stories. Starting this week I am going to list 10 of my favorite stories from the year, in no particular order.
“Smart Choices Foods: Dumb as they look? ,” Rebecca Ruiz, Forbes, October 2009
The American Society of Anesthesiologists wants to change the way people think about pain medicine, both to promote the idea that anesthesiologists are not just experts in the surgical suite and also to prevent addictions and deaths.
Dr. Scott Takasugi finally ran out of excuses.
The Sacramento plastic surgeon was accused of molesting his patients, some of whom were as young as 12.
His patients said that they came in for breast enhancements or reductions, yet Takasugi told them to take all their clothes off. Then he touched and photographed them. To explain this behavior, Takasugi told the Sacramento Bee:
What I did was misconstrued medical procedures.
It’s safe to say that most health writers pay attention when Tracy Weber and Charlie Ornstein publish something.
They have been called the Woodward and Bernstein of health reporting. The comparison fits because these two have few peers in their ability to dig for documents, cajole sources into talking and embarrass powerful public figures.
Freelance journalist Martha Rosenberg recently made an interesting comparison between embattled drug giant Wyeth and former insurance giant AIG. The latter famously handed out massive bonuses and planned lavish company retreats at a time when the company was receiving billions in federal bailout funds.
Dr. Panayiotis Baltatzis has been given many chances.
In 1995, the Maryland State Board of Physicians placed Baltatzis on probation after other physicians in a peer review process found that he had, among other things, prescribed narcotics to patients he had not adequately evaluated. The doctor, who practices in Baltimore area, was supposed to take a class in prescribing controlled substances and submit to annual peer review of his practice.