It had to happen sooner or later: fake news about bioethics. Fake, not in the sense of exaggerated, or slanted, or partial, or badly researched, but authentically fake, like the Rolex watches you can buy for $10 in Bangkok.
Several major online newspapers in the US and UK published a shocking story about a couple in Jackson, Mississippi, who sought IVF treatment and learned that they actually were twins separated at birth.
The doctor who broke the news described how the wife pleaded with him to admit he was joking, but he added: “I wish that I was, but they had to know the truth.” ...The sensational news was based on an article in a publication called the Mississippi Herald, which has no contact details or physical address, and had been set up only a few days before.
The unnamed doctor added: “The husband said that a lot of people remarked on the fact they shared the same birthdays and looked similar to each other, but he said it was just a funny coincidence and that the couple were definitely not related.”
The pair are now said to be re-considering their future together.
It was, according to Snopes, the internet fact-checker, “set up for no other ostensible purpose than to spread fictitious stories. And a number of online ‘news’ publications ran with one of their fictitious stories without having made the slightest attempt to verify it, based on nothing more than one dubious source that should have raised a plethora of red flags in a real newsroom.”
Saturday, April 22, 2017
We’re back from the Easter holidays, which in Australia are far longer than elsewhere, thank goodness. To get back into the rhythm of things, we have published two articles about “fake news” and bioethics. One reports that prospective IVF parents in Mississippi discovered to their horror that they were twins separated at birth. This went around the world before some spoilsport blew the whistle on it. The other is an announcement by British billionaire Richard Branson that he is setting up a sperm bank for dyslexics. Branson being Branson, it’s hard to tell whether this is fake news or not, but I suspect that it is.
The problem with BioEdge, some readers tell us, is that everything sounds like fake news. This, of course, is not true; we take great care to check our sources. However, all too often the articles seem to have been composed in some gigantic facility manned by bad news elves.
In fact, when you read today’s lead story, “Euthanised organ donors could dramatically shorten waitlists in Belgium, say doctors”, I must concede that it does sound so implausible as to be fake. But it’s not a report from The Onion, but from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Go figure.
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BioEdge: ‘Fake news’ invades bioethics