Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Ethics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The over-optimistic portrayal of life-supporting treatments in newspapers and on the Internet: a cross-sectional study using extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation as an example

Yen-Yuan Chen12, Likwang Chen3, Yu-Hui Kao4, Tzong-Shinn Chu25, Tien-Shang Huang16* and Wen-Je Ko78

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, No. 1, Rd. Ren-Ai sec. 1, Taipei 10051, Taiwan

2 Department of Medical Education, National Taiwan University Hospital, No. 7, Rd. Chong-Shan S, Taipei 10002, Taiwan

3 Institute of Population Health Sciences, National Health Research Institutes, 35 Keyan Road, Zhunan, Miaoli County 35053, Taiwan

4 Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, 103 East Hall, Ames, IA 50011, USA

5 Department of Primary Care Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, No. 1, Rd. Ren-Ai sec. 1, Taipei 10051, Taiwan

6 Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, No. 7, Rd. Chong-Shan S, Taipei 10002, Taiwan

7 Department of Surgery, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, No. 1, Rd. Ren-Ai sec. 1, Taipei 10051, Taiwan

8 Department of Traumatology, National Taiwan University Hospital, No. 7, Rd. Chong-Shan S, Taipei 10002, Taiwan

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:59  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-59

Published: 1 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation has been introduced to clinical practice for several decades. It is unclear how internet and newspapers portray the use of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation. This study were: (1) to quantify the coverage of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation use in newspapers and on the Internet; (2) to describe the characteristics of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation users presented in newspaper articles and the Internet web pages in comparison with those shown in extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation studies in Taiwan; and (3) to examine the survival rates of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation users presented in newspaper articles and the Internet web pages in comparison with those in Taiwan and in the Extracorporeal Life Support Registry Report International Summary for January 2014.

Methods

All issues of Taiwan’s four major newspapers from 2006 to 2010 were reviewed. In October 2011, a search of Internet web pages was performed based on the subjects of “yeh-ko-mo” (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation in Traditional Chinese), “ECMO”, and “extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation.” All the Internet web pages and newspaper articles recounting the use of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation were reviewed. The information, such as patient characteristic and the status at hospital discharge, was collected.

Results

The survival rate of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation use shown on the Internet (83.97%) was significantly higher than all the survival rates reported in Taiwan’s literature (p < .01) and in the Extracorporeal Life Support Registry Report International Summary for January 2014 (p < .01). In addition, the survival rate of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation use shown in newspapers (61.54%) was significantly higher than the average survival rate (43%) reported in Taiwan’s literature, the pediatric average survival rate (51%), and the adult average survival rate (47%) in the Extracorporeal Life Support Registry Report International Summary for January 2014.

Conclusions

Internet and newspapers both showed over-optimistic survival to hospital discharge for patients sustained by extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation. Internet was more likely to provide optimistic information for aggressive life-supporting treatments such as extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation than newspapers as indicated by survival to hospital discharge.

Keywords:
Life-supporting treatment; Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation; Media; Internet; Newspaper