Maryanne Demasi

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Maryanne Demasi is an Australian science reporter and presenter, best known for her at times controversial work with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Catalyst television program. She completed a doctorate in medical research at the University of Adelaide and worked for a decade at the Royal Adelaide Hospital as a research scientist specialising in rheumatoid arthritis research. She has also worked as an advisor to the South Australian Government's Minister for Science and Information Economy.

Demasi become nationally prominent for television stories[1] that resulted in controversy, contributing to early rumours of the axing of Catalyst followed by an announcement of its planned restructuring and possible redeployment of staff.[2]

Catalyst Controversies[edit]

Statin report[edit]

Demasi produced and presented two controversial episodes of the science program Catalyst in October 2013, which questioned the link between cholesterol, cholesterol-reducing medication and ill-health.[3] A large number of individuals and professional organisations within the medical and scientific community responded to the show negatively[4] and the National Heart Foundation of Australia published a nine-page rebuttal of the claims presented in the program.[5] Demasi was accused of bias by ABC's MediaWatch program[6] and received criticism from national newspapers for incomplete and biased coverage of life-threatening health issues.[7][8][9] In response to these allegations, Demasi claimed that participants in the program had been presented with her material and agreed with her interpretation.[10] The National Heart Foundation responded, saying that Demasi had not presented the research,[11] ignored and mis-interpreted the information provided, and selectively edited quotes to invert their meaning. In May 2014 the ABC removed the two episodes from its website.[12] after an internal review found that both programs met the ABC editorial standards for factual accuracy, though a section in the second episode breached standards of impartiality. The report also found that the programs were not found to cause any undue harm to the public and took adequate steps to ensure people did not cease their medications without consulting their doctor.[13] Despite the finding of the ABC's report, the MJA claimed that there was a temporary increase in discontinuation of statins and a sustained decrease in the dispensing of statins immediately following the broadcast of the program.[14]

Dr Demasi disputed claims that her program "could cause death" and published a rebuttal.[15] According to a Cochrane systematic review on statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), “the decision for patients at low risk for CVD to initiate or continue statin therapy for primary prevention remains under the purview of patients and their physicians".[16]

Wi-Fried[edit]

Demasi produced a report in a February 2016 episode of Catalyst called "Wi-Fried" on Wi-Fi and cellphone safety. In her report she details the scientific debate about health effects from low level exposures and she raises questions about the long term effects of low level microwave exposures in schools. Her report shows a school where the Wi-Fi routers are turned off when not in use to reduce microwave radiation exposure. Her report was described as unbalanced by Media Watch,[17] criticised by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)[18] and in the media by groups and scientists who have long believed it is impossible for microwave radiation to have effects at low levels.[19][20][21][22][23] Demasi defended her report in an article in The Guardian[24] and responded to specific criticism in the Huffington Post.[25] Catalyst also defended the episode in a letter to Media Watch.[26] Maryanne Demasi has since been stood down as a reporter till at least September 2016 and the program, 'Catalyst' is under review. A public on-air apology statement was broadcast on the ABC on 5 July 2016 and the episode has been withdrawn from the ABC's online site.

Awards[edit]

Demasi has been awarded National Press Club of Australia prizes in 2008, 2009 and 2011 for 'Excellence in Health Journalism'.[27][28][29] In 2014 Demasi, was a finalist in the Association of International Broadcasting Awards for her Catalyst programme "Toxic Sugar", subsequently won by David Attenborough.[30]

Compensation claim[edit]

In 2014 while working from home, she went out running and subsequently had an accident and broke her hip. In 2016 She attempted to claim workers compensation for the injury, but the claim was rejected.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Catalyst Wi-Fried and statins reports fail viewers with bad science journalism". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  2. ^ "ABC 'saves' Catalyst, but staff to go in restructure". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  3. ^ Cathy O'Leary, Medical Editor (2013-11-02). "Patients swamp GPs in anti-cholesterol pill confusion | Health+Medicine". Health.thewest.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  4. ^ "Sections of the medical community question Catalyst program about cholesterol and heart disease - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  5. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1341_heartfoundation2.pdf
  6. ^ "Media Watch: Catalyst challenges the mainstream (11/11/2013)". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  7. ^ Peter Martin. "ABC report could cause death, says ABC health specialist". Smh.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  8. ^ Peter Clifton (2013-11-06). "Odds of surviving are better with statins". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  9. ^ Peter Martin. "ABC report could cause death, says ABC health specialist". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  10. ^ "PM - Backlash against ABC's Catalyst program questioning heart disease-cholesterol links 31/10/2013". Abc.net.au. 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  11. ^ "Heart Foundation 'shocked' at ABC decision to run Catalyst program on cholesterol drugs statins - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  12. ^ "ABC will take down two controversial Catalyst episodes on heart disease". Theage.com.au. 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  13. ^ "Catalyst 'Heart of the Matter' Investigation Report" (PDF). abc.net.au. 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-12. 
  14. ^ "MJA The crux of the matter: did the ABC's Catalyst program change statin use in Australia?". 2015-02-15. Retrieved 2016-02-17. 
  15. ^ "ABC Catalyst Gets It Right on Cholesterol". 
  16. ^ "Re: Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? - The BMJ". 
  17. ^ "Media Watch: Catalyst cops criticism over 'Wi-fried?' (22/02/2016)". 
  18. ^ "ARPANSA - News 17 February 2016 - Mobile Phones, Wi-Fi Devices and Health". 
  19. ^ Darren Saunders (17 February 2016). "Do Wi-Fi and mobile phones really cause cancer? Experts respond". The Conversation. 
  20. ^ "News - Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research @ UOW". Archived from the original on 22 February 2016. 
  21. ^ "Scared of frying your brain with Wi-Fi?". RiAus.tv. 
  22. ^ "ABC's Catalyst criticised for linking Wi-Fi with brain tumours". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  23. ^ "ABC slammed for 'scientifically bankrupt' report". The New Daily. 
  24. ^ Maryanne Demasi. "Mobile phones and brain cancer: 'no evidence of health risk' is not the same as 'safe'". the Guardian. 
  25. ^ "Sometimes Asking Questions Provides You With Answers That May Be Uncomfortable". Huffingtonpost.com.au. 2016-02-19. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  26. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1604_demasi.pdf
  27. ^ "Joint Media Release – Australia's best health journalism recognised". Medicines Australia. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  28. ^ "Australia's Best Health Journalism Recognised (Joint media release)". Medicines Australia. 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  29. ^ "Australia's Best Health Journalism Recognised (Joint Media Release)". Medicines Australia. 2008-08-13. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  30. ^ "The 10th Annual AIB Awards cover the globe". AIB. 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  31. ^ Elle Hunt. "ABC Catalyst host Maryanne Demasi loses broken hip workers' compensation claim | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-09-09. 

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