Why is there so much medical misinformation in The Huffington Post?

Today, I refer you to an excellent post by Peter A. Lipson, MD, at the blog, Science-Based Medicine, entitled, "HuffPo blogger claims skin cancer is conspiracy."

The post focuses on an article by someone who contends that the link between sunlight and skin cancer is a conspiracy by dermatologists and the cosmetic dermatology industry. Dr. Lipson's highly insightful analysis about the "interview" process and how doctors must act these days on behalf of their patients concludes:

This article shows a misunderstanding of journalistic ethics, medical ethics, and medical science. It's a disaster. And it's no surprise that it's in the Huffington Post.

While this is a medicine story, my question relates to why an organization with a lot of great frontpage news so frequently posts medical articles that are wrong and, sometimes, downright dangerous.

Read the article first, then read Dr. Lipson's analysis.

Disclosure: I am an occasional contributor to Science-Based Medicine but, like all contributors there, receive no compensation.

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I have to admit itâs one thing that has been other pestering my mind too. Perhaps a simple lack of editorial judgement?

It's not all that surprising. HuffPo was created as a liberal reaction to a conservative/authoritarian political environment. There's a large subset of the population which doesn't distinguish between the scientific "this is the way the Universe is and your opinion isn't going to change that" and the authoritarian "this is the way the world works, and we don't care what you think."

One of the persistent stereotypes used against liberals is that they want to make the world all fluffy bunnies and rainbows without a thought in their heads for whether their plans will work [1]. HuffPo isn't immune to that kind of thing in the political sphere, but in the current environment they can find plenty to do without going to complete reality disconnect.

Medicine? Apparently someone let go of Ariana's tether to reality. It's really not a political thing at all: the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons does the same from the Right [2].

[1] Personally I don't see why conservatives get away without being called on being just as disconnected from reality. IMHO it's a characteristic of the Ruling Class: they make reality, after all.
[2] Again, IMHO, it's a sort of epistemological narcissism.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 15 Jul 2010 #permalink

I don't know the answer to the question, but whenever I read a questionable medical article in the Huffington Post, I always go right to PalMD the next day and inevitably, he's got the truth posted for me.

What a great contrast.
Yes, vitamin D deficiency is of concern, but it is relatively easy to get it from fortified foods or supplements. The latter would certainly seem to be amenable to HuffPo's worldview, so what's the problem?
I am also entertained by the graph showing a decreasing rate of melanoma from 1975 on... in other words, about the time we got some effective sunscreens and dermatology began pushing them.

I stopped reading HuffPo after the woo got too much to handle. Switched over to AlterNet.com, which had a similar forum but no Chopra/Ullman/McCarthy. Or so I thought. Mercola just had an aspartame-is-a-government-conspiracy rant on there, which was just as bad as anything found on the HuffPo. I'm hoping, with the number of comments (and a much less strict moderation policy) that were disappointed in the site, this sort of claptrap will end.

But still, it seems to be a blight amongst liberal circles (which makes friendship with a lot of liberals I know somewhat strained at times). I wish I understood it, but I think D.C. @2 has it close - "There's a large subset of the population which doesn't distinguish between the scientific "this is the way the Universe is and your opinion isn't going to change that" and the authoritarian "this is the way the world works, and we don't care what you think.""