Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let's all try to get along

In the bottom of a box of uncataloged Medical Museum pieces, a small pamphlet was recently discovered. The 14-page, 16 cm.-high booklet presents Oregon's Code of Cooperation, for physicians, hospitals, television, radio, press, newly promulgated in October 1956 by the Oregon State Medical Society, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, the Oregon State Broadcasters Association, and the Oregon Association of Hospitals.

The code, intended to "provide a better understanding of the mutual responsibilities between physicians, hospitals, and the news media," was modeled on an amended version of the code adopted by Colorado's medical and journalistic communities.

The code proper is prefaced by a preamble with a statement of principles, and followed by the OAH's "recommended guide for hospitals in giving information to the news media" (e.g. no. 7: "Unconsciousness: (A) if the patient is unconscious when he is brought to the hospital, a statement of this fact may be made; (B) the cause of unconsciousness, however, may not be given.")

The preamble sets out the general parameters under which parties should function, to wit:
...the news media agree:
1. to consult qualified sources for medical stories...
2. to present fairly and accurately news thus gathered... [begs the question of balance?]
The doctors and the hospitals agree:
1. to be available to news media...
2. to cooperate without mental reservation or personal exception with the Code and with the news media.
The compilers of the code obviously saw the potential for misuse of the media by celebrity wannabes, cautioning that
If, on either side, the Code is corrupted to provide personal glorification--and only that--for a doctor, an institution, a writer or a news medium, it cannot function.
If it becomes a weapon of reprisal, prejudice, or personal annoyance, it is useless.
The code was revised and reissued at least once since this 1956 launch; one sometimes wonders whose rules everyone is playing by these days...

On a related note, see today's Oregonian coverage of PETA's animal cruelty charges against the Oregon National Primate Research Center here; and see the university's response to the same charges here.

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