Medical writers and editors for the general press don't intend to inflict cruelty on suffering people. But that's what they often deliver in the rote-journalism pursuit of informing the public of new developments in medical research, no matter how distant they may be from therapeutic application.

News of direct health value to the public deserves the prompt coverage that it regularly receives. But not so the mere research fragments that raise unrealistic hopes, leaving distressed people empty-handed, dismayed, and uncomprehending when they rush to the doctor pleading for the help that they "saw in the paper."

Harvested from medical and scientific journals and university and corporate press-release hype, scientific scraps are routinely ingested by the news media and regurgitated in lay translation, with hopeful implications or direct assertions of progress, advances, and new treatment possibilities. That no treatment is available now, soon, or possibly ever, may or may not make...

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