(Picture: PA – Press)
The Mail on Sunday published a front page article this week consisting of cynical and calculated lies which reveals a lot about how the tabloid press works in this country.
On a weekend when there was rather a lot going on globally that might have merited front page coverage, the paper opted to lead with a suspicious-sounding and rather flimsy story about NHS doctors apparently being ordered to use gender-neutral terms when dealing with pregnant patients in the hospital.
The headline screamed DON’T CALL PREGNANT PATIENTS ‘MOTHERS’. The sub-header called it a ‘ludicrously politically correct directive to placate the transgender lobby’ while the Mail Online edition asserted that ‘doctors are banned from using the word’.
The article ran as an exclusive about an apparent British Medical Association (BMA) directive and featured an array of angry commentators calling the decision ‘anti-science’ and ‘Orwellian’.
It may all sound like something from a comedy sketch about political correctness and staff being ordered by management to toe an extreme equality and diversity line. But there are two big problems with the Mail on Sunday piece. It’s not true and it’s not news.
First, no doctors – NHS or otherwise – have been told anything about how to address pregnant patients. The information the paper is referring to comes from an internal BMA publication called A guide to effective communication: inclusive language in the workplace (available here – file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/BMA-guide-to-effective-communication-2016.pdf).
As a BMA spokesperson makes clear: ‘It is not a workplace guidance for doctors, which is clear from the fact it does not refer to patients’.
So whatever your views on such guidance, it is aimed purely at BMA internal staff and representatives and not doctors. Yet all of the papers mentioned above apart from the Telegraph stated in their headline that doctors had been ‘banned’ or ‘warned’ or ‘told’ how to deal with patients.
Second, as can be seen in the document title, it’s not an order or an instruction. It’s just guidelines, a suggestion on what language could be used to avoid any upset or confusion.
The sentence which has caused such outrage in the papers is this: ‘We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers”.
That’s it. Just a one line suggestion in a document about how the BMA might refer to pregnancy in general, not an order to doctors to refuse to address pregnant women as mothers. Yet the Mail on Sunday saw fit to run with this as a front page story.
Finally, it’s not news. The BMA guidance is a year old. It seems a tad suspicious that it’s surfaced on the very weekend that the president of the most powerful nation on earth announces a ban on refugees and citizens from various Muslim-majority countries. But whether the timing was deliberate or not, the fact that the second biggest newspaper in the UK thinks that an inoffensive sentence in a year-old internal medical document is the weekend’s biggest story is pretty shameful really.
Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.