Mr Martin Healy and the Sunday Independent

Monday, 4th January 2016
Filed under:

The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint by Mr Martin Healy. 

The Sunday Independent has a regular column titled “Rude Health”.  This column consists of advice and views on medical matters and is written by a medical practitioner. In the column published on 27 September 2015 the author expressed his delight that the Pharmaceutical Society has “taken a stance on the food-intolerance-testing malarkey”.  He recommended that diagnosis should only take place on the basis of such testing “after careful consultation with a doctor”.

Mr Martin Healy complained to the editor of the Sunday Independent that the article breached Principle 2.3 of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.  This states:

Readers are entitled to expect that the content of the press reflects the best judgment of editors and writers and has not been inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests.  Wherever relevant, any significant financial interest of an organisation should be disclosed.  Writers should disclose significant potential conflicts of interest to their editors

Mr Healy claimed that the author had failed to disclose the fact that as editor of the Irish Medical Directory the publication he edited was in receipt of finance from pharmaceutical companies who purchased advertising in the directory.  He argued that readers of the column were “not receiving unbiased medical opinion”. 

The editor of the Sunday Independent stated in his response to the complaint that the newspaper “featured very prominently” every week that the author of the column was the editor of the Irish Medical Directory.

As the complaint could not be conciliated it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

I am not upholding this complaint as I do not believe Principle 2.3 of the Code of Practice was breached in the article published on 27 September. Readers of the column were informed that the author was the editor of the Irish Medical Directory. I can find no evidence that the views and opinions of the author in the column the subject of the complaint were influenced in any way by the fact that a directory he edits is financed in part through advertisements of pharmaceutical products.

4 January 2016