Tesco may be changing its stance on this highly controversial magazine. Time to act and remind them how dangerous and unacceptable this publication is.
For a year now, there has been much concern that mainstream retail outlets have been stocking and selling a magazine called What Doctors Don’t Tell You. Now, there are many magazines on the shelves that frequently promote superstitious and pseudoscientific forms of health belief, such as homeopathy, vitamins and reiki, but WDDTY goes way beyond most offerings. This is a magazine that plays in the mainstream and yet systematically sets out to undermine trust in medical professionals and promote nonsensical, disproven or misrepresented alternatives.
A recent example of its reporting style was dissected by Dr Matthew Lam on the Sense About Science blog where he describes how the magazine completely misrepresented the evidence behind Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy. “The variety of ways that the authors misused and abused scientific evidence and scientific language to make their claims was shocking”, said LAM. It was not a one-off. Looking through other issues there was misrepresentation and “ill-informed advice on vaccination, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, all cancers, colds, flu, HIV….the list goes on.”
In my opinion, the magazine represents a clear danger to public health in the way it systematically misrepresents evidence and presents a highly selective and skewed approach to mainstream medicine and so-called alternatives. The style of so many stories is that doctors are withholding crucial health advice, they belittle or undermine alternatives, promote drugs, or are just ignorant about ‘natural medicine’ including foods and vitamins.
The magazine undermines public health advice about many things including vaccines, and promotes nonsensical, useless homeopathic alternatives in their place. It promotes the idea that vitamin C might be a ‘wonder cure’ for HIV and measles. If people were to follow any of the advice in here, they could be seriously harmed or even killed.
It is not just my opinion that this magazine is a danger to people. Dr Margaret McCartney spoke on Radio 4 about it, and called WDDTY “ridiculously alarmist”. When the writer Simon Singh spoke on twitter about his concerns that WDDTY magazine was promoting” health advice that could potentially harm readers” he was threatened with legal action. Although the magazine lists its own medical advisors, there is much to be concerned about regarding these advisors’ stances on medical reality. An article in the BMJ was heavily critical of the approach WDDTY takes to medicine and evidence.
Many people have written to retail outlets complaining that they should not be stocking such a magazine. I questioned if WHSmith should be selling it. Hayley Stevens called on people to write to Waitrose, WHSmith and Sainsbury. Josephine Jones’ blog documents many other aspects and complaints, and is well worth consulting.
It has also been noted that huge numbers of advertisers in the magazine appear to be breaking advertising guidelines by being untruthful, misleading or discouraging medical attention. The Nightingale Collaboration, who challenge online advertisers about health claims, sumbited complaints about 26 adverts from the first and second issues – this is probably a record for any single publication. To date, the ASA have adjudicated on 54 CAP Code breaches in the magazine’s adverts – from just two issues. Some issues are still waiting to be resolved. This must be a record for any magazine and makes it very difficult for it to defend that it is a responsible publication.
But many responses from retailers have simply pushed the problem back saying it is not their job to censor the magazine.
Call to Action
But a possible breakthrough has been made and this is where you are required.
The apoptoticus blog received a reply from Tesco after saying they were prepared to take a stand over lads’ mags but not over this. The key remark in the response is as follows:
I have checked on this, especially as we have previously stated that it is not up to us to censor items such as this, but have now taken a new stance in regards to the Lads mags and are insisting upon modesty bags.
The reason for this is that we have received a large amount of contact regarding them, and our customers have let us know how much this bothers them.
We will do the same with the What Doctors Don’t Tell You magazine. We will keep an eye on the contact we receive about this magazine and will attempt to stay in touch with our customers’ feelings to ensure that we are always making the right decisions.
Please accept my apologies for the concern this magazine has caused you, and my assurances that we will monitor the situation and will make any alterations that meets our customers’ expectations in the future.
So, if you feel unhappy that Tesco is selling a magazine that gives advice that puts people at risk, then perhaps you could let them know.
Contact Tesco here or email at customer.service @tesco. co. uk
Your email only needs to be brief and it is best if it is your own words but say something like,
1) You are concerned that a magazine is being stocked that gives consistently bad health advice.
2) It puts their customers at risk.
3) Newspapers and the BMJ have reported on the concerns about this magazine.
4) The Advertising Standards Authority has had to adjudicate on a record number of misleading adverts from a single publication.
5) That as Tesco is prepared to take a stance on lads mads because of the potential harm they cause, it is consistent that they also take a stance on a magazine that misinforms about health in dangerous ways.
So, to pre-emp critics. I am not trying to silence McTaggart and her WDDTY empire. She has her websites, her books and her speaking engagements, and she can get on with those. I am questioning whether responsible mainstream retailers should be assisting in promoting her stance on healthcare when it is clearly misinforming and risks readers’ lives
A very good sample letter is given at the Western Sloth blog.
Update 24th September
Thanks for so many of you writing. It looks like you are all getting a template response. IF you have not written yet, please take this into account and ask a specific question that this template will not cover.
Thank you for your email.I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.
Tesco Customer Service
Tesco have dug their heels in. But the November issue of WDDTY looks like it could be very special. Expect this story to find legs.
1st October. The Times wades in…