Author(s): Wijdicks EF, Wijdicks MF
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To review journalists' preferences and accuracy in reporting comatose states. METHODS: Using the Lexis-Nexis database, we selected newspaper headlines from January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2005, that included the words coma, comatose, unconsciousness, vegetative state, awakening, and brain dead. RESULTS: We identified 340 stories by headlines. The median age of persons in coma was 26 years. Coma cases in men were twice as common as those in women. In 71\% of coma cases, the cause of coma was associated with motor vehicle crashes or violence. Persistent vegetative state was reported in 25 articles (7\%), frequently when a family or physician conflict emerged. In 33 stories (10\%), coma was medically induced but not mentioned in the headline. Three "miracle" recoveries involved resumption of speech in patients in a minimally conscious state. CONCLUSION: Few news reports had gross inaccuracies or misrepresentations; however, definitional difficulties of unconscious states with the reporters remain. The reporting of coma may be biased toward violence and trauma. Medically induced coma was present in 1 of 10 reports but rarely mentioned in the headline.
This article was published in Mayo Clin Proc
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy