NBC Report on Dialysis Reveals Continued Media and Nephrology Bias

NBC Report on Dialysis Reveals Continued Media and Nephrology Bias
By Peter Laird, MD

NBC did several background videos on dialysis to accompany their recent ProPublica feature report which in my opinion continues the false impression that dialysis is a horrible treatment and renal transplant is our only hope. They correctly pointed out the need for a fistula to avoid complications of catheters, patients fear of needles, risks of infection and reduced clearances, but the primary focus was that of renal transplant implying that renal transplant is the only true hope. This report based on the ProPublica series returns to the sad bias, in my opinion, now also by NBC of the only hope for patients with CKD-5 is to avoid dialysis and get on the transplant list early.

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I would hope that one day, a true and unbiased report on all renal replacement options, including optimal dialysis strategies would be headline news on a national network. Unfortunately, even noting the ProPublica series as part of the NBC nightly news that accompanies these videos gives the very biased viewpoint that dialysis is dangerous and that the only hope is renal transplant. Yet, for those that are not part of the 15,000 or so that get a renal transplant in the US each year, we must continue with dialysis as our mainline treatment option. Yes, for many, renal transplant transforms their life, but so likewise does daily, nocturnal dialysis which is equal in survival to cadaveric transplant, and you don’t have to wait to survive 5-8 years to get that survival benefit.

While I applaud the attention that NBC focused on the ProPublica Dialysis series, it did so in my opinion, by continuing the myth of the gift of life only from renal transplant. In such, their report will only bring continued death and destruction to hundreds of thousands of dialysis patients because NBC chose to completely ignore optimal dialysis in these 4 segments. What a failed opportunity.

The dialysis industry spin continues and people continue to die needlessly because home dialysis options are overlooked at the hands of our nephrologists who fail to inform. Dr. Barbara Murphy of Mount Sinai Medical Center, in my opinion, is simply the latest biased nephrologist failing American dialysis patients by lack of informed consent of all renal replacement options, even more so on a national news program. Perhaps she did speak of optimal dialysis, and NBC chose to exclude that discussion in her three segments, I will give her the benefit of the doubt on that issue, certainly NBC could have chosen to truly educate but did not do so in 4 separate dialysis segements.

You may wish to contact Dr. Murphy at the link above and inform her of your opinion on optimal dialysis issues as I plan to do myself since she failed to make mention of anything outside of in-center dialysis other than renal transplant in three news segments focussed on dialysis especially in light of the recent FHN results. I will be more than willing to run a full rebuttal by NBC or Dr. Murphy on my blog as well, should they choose to do so.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Barbara Murphy’s specialty is renal transplant medicine. Why would NBC choose a transplant specialist to tell us about dialysis? Why not a dialysis specialist such as Dr. Chris Blagg, Dr. Robert Lockridge or Dr. John Agar? I can only state that the bias against optimal dialysis appears to run deep in my opinion, even at NBC nightly news. After all, these 4 segments were featuring dialysis, not renal transplant. Shall the truth ever be told? This is simply my own opinion and my own personal impression of the 4 NBC nightly news segments on Dialysis.


To see videos, go to NBC or watch embedded videos on my post.

Thanks, Peter. It really is unfortunate that the media continue to perpetuate the “transplant = cure + only hope” mythology. I’ve talked to a number of nephrologists who still feel that way, and I believe you have as well. It’s no wonder the general public has no idea that there are better ways to dialyze.

Thanks Dori, and Happy new years.

I am still shocked at the blatant disregard of optimal dialysis strategies and cannot contain myself at times when confronted so openly with a biased view. I had to learn about optimal dialysis on my own and I am still trying to convince my colleagues. I am glad that NBC placed some attention on the plight of dialysis patients, but together with the biased viewpoint by their expert commentator, a transplant nephrologist, I am fearful that all will happen is more negativity toward dialysis patients. Why not show Bill Peckham or Dan Larabee going down the Rogue River, but a sickly person in a hospital bed makes good news I guess, and of course they are good patients because they entered the wait list for a kidney. Just call me dense because I simply don’t get it, nor do our counterparts in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.