Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Too Much Journalistic Enthusiasm Again For The Artificial Heart

Here we go again. And believe me, as one who’s covered the artificial heart experiments of the 1980s, I feel like I’ve been through this countless times before — but so have health news readers.

Another entrepeneurial team announces hopes for its artificial heart device and some news coverage trumpets the company’s announcement:

NYT banner.jpg

NYT Artificial Heart Story













But this was in The New York Times! Now, granted — it’s in a “Global Business” section. But we don’t see why that removes the need for more scrutiny, for independent perspective, and for a better discussion of evidence.

The story begins:

It is a long-held dream: an artificial heart to replace one that is damaged or diseased. Now, a French company says that it has the technology to make the implantation of it a standard surgical procedure.”

But the story never scrutinizes what the company says — except to say: “While the sales pitch may make for a compelling story, as with any start-up, there is no guarantee that the enterprise will succeed.” But that’s about business prospects. It’s not about the science and the evidence.

“The company hopes to start human testing in France by the end of next year and to bring the technology to the market in Europe in 2013.”

On the one hand, we got somewhere with that sentence — human testing hasn’t even begun. On the other hand, we let the company get away with projecting widespread marketing within 3 years! What is that based on? Besides a company’s hope and a prayer?

It was good that the story reminded readers of other devices either already approved or in development.

It concluded with the company’s chief executive estimating the:

“… the potential market at “a minimum” of 100,000 patients a year in the United States and Europe. However, he said cost constraints meant it was unlikely that more than one-tenth of those patients would actually receive an artificial heart.”

And that cost was estimated elsewhere in the story:

“When all expenses are considered, including hospital and surgical expenses, it says it will cost just over $315,000, about the same as a transplant.”

Let’s remember to “be still, my beating heart” and to scrutinize the enthusiasm of a company — maybe until it has experience with, say, at least one human experiment. I remember some of the breathlessly enthusiastic news coverage of experiments with Barney Clark, Bill Schroeder, Murray Hayden and others with the Jarvik-7 artificial heart in the ’80s.

Has journalism learned anything about coverage of artificial hearts in 30 years?

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »