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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

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.

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When it turns out a source has been lying to you about a central theme of a story you care deeply about, it can be agonizing to have to own up to that fact.
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When you start combing through the medical records, it can get messy. You'll want to walk through the records with the patient or their family to resolve discrepancies and questions.
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Here’s the first question you should ask when someone contacts you with a tip about something amiss with a patient’s care: “Can you get access to the medical records?”
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I still can remember that defensive feeling that welled up in me when my editor doubted me. He wanted to know how I knew my subject's claim of having served in Vietnam was true.
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People want to sound like the most interesting version of themselves. That's why reporters should be skeptical of a source's self-proclaimed job description.
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Journalists have heard it a million times: use multiple sources. But as William Heisel explains, that means more than conducting a bunch of interviews and filling up notebooks.
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Every reporter has been there: Something ends up in your notebook that just doesn’t feel right. So, how do you handle such situations?
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The death certificate helps tells a fuller story of Bill Paxton’s final days. Reporters should make a habit of seeking them out, since they can be revealing repositories of information.
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The tendency to blame the patient in the wake of deaths or complications often serves to obscure mistakes made by health care providers.
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What would a more thorough effort to figure out what went wrong in health care-related deaths look like? Does medicine need the equivalent of aviation's black box?

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