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in which I respectfully disagree with Mary Shomon

Posted Feb 14 2006 12:00am
A few days ago, I posted an open letter to Mary Shomon, regarding her prominently linking to Michael Moore's call for medical horror stories, to be featured in his upcoming project (I'm hesitant to call it a documentary, given Moore's history.)

I feel comfortable in posting a good part of Mary's reply here, since she also posted her reply in this thread in her thyroid support forum:
As with most of my advocacy efforts, I trust people to make their own decisions, and do their own research. I just lay out the opportunities, paths, and directions they can pursue.

If someone likes Moore, or even doesn't like him but thinks they have a story to share and he's the one to tell it to, then they might follow the link to participate. If someone doesn't like him, or thinks he's not responsible, then they can choose to bypass it.

I'm not coming down one way or the other, politically or otherwise.
I'm simply passing an opportunity on to readers, and allowing them, in their own wisdom, to make their own decisions.

On the face of it, this is an eminently sensible response. Of course, patients make their own decisions, and it's great that Mary makes us aware of opportunities that we can assess for ourselves.

However, I must respectfully disagree with Mary when she positions herself here as a reporter, somehow twisting the definition of advocate around to mean someone who passes on information for her audience of patients to assess.

Because Mary is emphatically not a reporter; she is an advocate. Yes, part of what she does is pass on important news about thyroid-related research, medications, standards, and publications. But first she distills it to extract the most relevant information, and she repackages it in a way that a typical thyroid patient will find accessible. This is an invaluable service, but please understand that Mary does not deliver "just the facts," she assesses the information for relevancy, accuracy, and impact on the thyroid community. You can see an example in her 2005 Thyroid Cheers and Jeers article, in which she lambastes some players in the thyroid medical community, and lauds others.

Even more on point is Mary's war of words with Dr. Richard Guttler, who runs the for-profit site thyroid.com, and uses outdated methodologies and treatments. It's obvious that Mary finds Guttler's practice reprehensible; under no circumstances would she advise a thyroid patient to seek treatment or advice from him. She makes that abundantly clear in her articles about him. Linking to Michael Moore as she did would be analogous, in my view, to linking to Dr. Guttler's site while reproducing one of his marketing blurbs intended to draw patients in. Of course, she would never do that: in discussing Guttler and his site, she makes sure that her patients have enough information so that they can make an informed decision.

In the past, Mary has always let us know where she stands: among us, the thyroid patient community. That's why I found her response inadequate, and why I maintain that by giving Moore's "call for submissions" a prominent place in her newsletter, she was giving him an implicit endorsement.

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