It reminds me of a program Catalyst ran about 10 years, when they looked at the issue of vaccinations for children.

They gave equal weight and time to opponents of vaccination as they did to orthodox medical opinions.

We can understand why 'balance' is an issue for non-specialists reporting in the news, an issue non-specialist journalists solve by giving equal time to both sides in a disputed area. 

For example: a comment by Will Steffan on climate change should be matched by one from, say, sceptics such as former Senator Nick Minchin or Ian Plimer, even though the broad thrust of climate science is supported by 95% of scientists active in the area.

But Catalyst?  Is it unreasonable to hope for a more sophisticated and intelligent approach?


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On 05/11/2013, at 7:56 PM, Chris Forbes-EWan wrote:

The Catalyst programs led to much discussion on the Nutritionists Network
('Nut-Net', a professional nutrition email discussion list).

Here are some of the messages:


You may be interested in Prof David Sullivan’s post on The Conversation:


It is hard to accept that the ABC wouldn't do a better check on its sources.

It doesn't take long to discover that:
•         Nutritionist Dr Johnny Bowden sells a range of (expensive) detox
supplements, bars, shakes, drinks and various anti-ageing supplements;
•         Cardiologist Dr Stephen Sinatra (who is also a bioenergetics
psychotherapist) is the author of Sugar Shock and sells a huge range of
supplements, including his Omega-3 slim which claims it will help you lose
30lb in 90 days; and
•         Dr Michael Eades is the author of Protein Power (a v low carb
diet) and also sells a range of very highly priced supplements, including
protein powders and his Metabosol range of 'improved diet aides'.
Cardiologist Dr Ernest Curtis - doesn't appear to sell supplements. He is
the author of The Cholesterol Delusion.

Perhaps Media Watch might be interested

Rosemary Stanton


I thought the NHF response was very lame, and so did others. On the other
hand, difficult to know what was edited from their responses by Catalyst.

Ultimately, though, the ABC Science unit has a lot of questions to answer
about such a blatantly biased program.
Paul R



Some may be interested in a piece I wrote for MJA Insight this week.

It is found at

Rosemary Stanton

Also, another article in The Conversation may be of interest:

-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of Niall
Sent: Tuesday, 5 November 2013 6:35 PM
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Statins proving to be a good debate for the
understanding of medical research

Good to see this issue appear on the list. Is this a piece of great
journalism or a shocking example of poor science communication.

I've not seen the program but the promotion of it, and the nature of the
Catalyst defence of the show rang alarm bells for me. It was just too
strong. If they'd been more considered - "statins doing good but
over-prescribed, reminds us that we still don't know what causes heart
attacks etc etc" then I might have bought in. But their 'Today Tonight'
style language, " certainly scientific fraud, and in its effect it's
organised crime" was a worry.

That was reinforced when I learnt of the leading Australian researchers who
refused to participate - a very strong and unusual reaction in Australia.

But Norman Swan's comments seal it for me. He waited, thought about it and
responsed, "People will die as a result of the Catalyst program unless
people understand at heart what the issues are."

I trust Norman.



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-----Original Message-----
From: ASC-list [] On Behalf Of Susan
Sent: Tuesday, 5 November 2013 5:11 PM
Subject: [ASC-list] Statins proving to be a good debate for the
understanding of medical research

As one who treats big Pharma with heavy scepticism; one with a history of
familial hypercholesterolemia,and one that stopped taking statins over a
year ago. I've been watching this debate with interest.   My CV risk has
increased recently and I now have to make a decision about whether to
continue taking this drug, more particularly whether it will reduce my risk
and I believe the 'jury is still out.'

But interestingly, the issues which began with a catalyst program might be a large lesson to
all about the proper analyses of medical research and could be a bit of an
eye opener, I believe, for the medical profession, who as Dr Ernest Curtis
says, "tend to learn by route and are not critical thinkers." and quotes Max
Plank (German Physicist) saying "new scientific theories are never adopted
because the proponents of the old theories are brought around and see the
light rather they have to die off and the next generation have to look at it
anew and that's true."  He can't understand why the medical profession even
accepted the pathological process of atherosclerosis.

For those with a subscription to Medical Observer there has been some
murmurings.  Before the airing they called for the ABC to stop the program,
based on fears by the medical profession that patients will discontinue

Then this: which looks at a more critical way of
deciding whether a patient (low risk) should be prescribed statins.  The
outcome, no.  But seriously how much time does a Dr have to go through the

Today we have this commentary

with some comments that need closer analysis (sorry if I keep spelling this
word wrong) and interpretation. People will die.  Well I think that's at the
heart of the debate isn't it?  Apparently the statins don't stop you dying.
Then we have a statement about Aboriginal people?? Then Norman Swan, now
respectfully, but really?  ³But nobody ever died of taking a statin, as far
as I¹m aware. But if you are at high risk of heart disease, and you throw
away your statins and go back to a bad diet, you could die.²  Yes going back
to a bad diet is a def no no.  But what about this in the book The Great
Cholesterol Con that states "the original statin cerivastatin was
voluntarily withdrawn after killing rather too many people."

Now back to me celebrations.....


Susan Fairbairn (nee Kirk)   B.comm  freelance Journalist
Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators (ASC)
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0414645953 | email: |  Skype: susanakirk | Tweet: @SusanAKirk Facebook
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³If you don¹t ask the right questions you won¹t get the right answers.²

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