Thursday, January 31, 2019

Did an ABC News physician/reporter fail to disclose bias and a professional relationship? I've asked the president of ABC News to investigate [5/18/19: NO REPLY, NO CHANGES TO THE COMPROMISED STORY; WHY TRUST REPORTING BY ABC'S ONCE-PRESITIGIOUS MEDICAL UNIT?}


January 31, 2019

James Goldston
ABC News
47 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10023

Dear Mr. Goldston:

This is to respectfully request that you review the following information and provide me with a determination if a recent news report by a member of the ABC News Medical Unit is in compliance with ABC News editorial standards and guidelines. Also, for an item I’m reporting on my blog, I’d appreciate your answers to some quick related questions.

Via A plant-based diet benefits not only humans but the Earth, too: Report by Dr. Robin Ortiz, January 22, 2019:
A diet heavy on whole grains and plants won’t only benefit human health, it’ll benefit the planet too, according to a report published this week by a commission of dozens of experts from 16 countries.

The report, published in The Lancet, attempted to determine the optimal diet for both humans and the earth, and found that if people around the globe followed a plant-based diet, it would save over 10 million lives — preventing 20 percent of adult deaths per year.

...Eating red and processed meat is unhealthy for you and the planet.

People who eat a lot of meat have an increased risk for all causes of death, disease and causing environmental harm. It also cited a lack of evidence that red meat is a nutritional necessity. In one of the studies the report cited, vegans had a 12 percent lower risk of death.

“A global shift to a plant-based diet is a win-win for both human health and the environment,” Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, told ABC News. “Animal products are not only major drivers of our planet’s top killers — like heart disease and obesity — but they’re also major drivers of what’s killing the planet itself: climate change, land use, water use, and air and water pollution.”

Every Person’s effort can make a serious change.

If you are ready to try an environmentally and heart healthy transition to a mostly plant-based diet, Barnard and his colleagues recently launched the free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart app. Physicians and medical centers, such as NYC Health and Bellevue Hospital and the Barnard Medical Center are also beginning to incorporate plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine practice into clinical care. You can also ease into the transition by going meatless just one day a week.

...Dr. Robin Ortiz is a physician in internal medicine and pediatrics and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.
Via an interview with Dr. Ortiz that aired January 9, 2019 (about two weeks before her ABC News story was published) on The Exam Room, self-described as “the ultimate vegan podcast” from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (transcribed below my signature):
  • Dr. Ortiz is a longtime vegan and actively promotes a vegan diet on her website and via social media.
  • For the past five years Dr. Ortiz has been a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a high-profile Washington, DC-based activist nonprofit that aggressively promotes a vegan diet.
  • As part of her medical training, Dr. Ortiz recently completed a four-week rotation at the Barnard Medical Center (BMC). The BMC’s founding president is PCRM founding president Neal Barnard MD whom Dr. Ortiz describes as a “guru” and a “legend.” (PCRM and the BMC are in the same building at 5100 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016.)
  • In the interview, a PCRM staffer described Dr. Ortiz as “the future of plant-based medicine” and stated that she will be an invited speaker at an upcoming PCRM international medical conference. Dr. Ortiz stated that she “hopes (her) relationship with PCRM and BMC is just beginning.”
1) None of the above information was included in Dr. Ortiz’s ABC report. Should any of the information have been included? If so, which parts?

2) Was the story assigned to Dr. Ortiz or did she suggest it?

3) Did any PRCM representatives assist Dr. Ortiz in her reporting?

4) Recenty I blogged an item compiling published mainstream sources that describe PCRM as an "animal rights" group. Whether or not Dr. Ortiz agrees with that, since she has been a member of the organization for five years, it stands to reason she’s aware of that description. Should her ABC report have included that information?

On January 25, I tweeted this question to Dr. Ortiz:

Here’s her same-day reply:

5) When politely asked to provide the names of editorial superiors, are reporters for ABC News encouraged to provide that information?

Thank you for your time/consideration and I look forward to your reply.

Full disclosure, I’ve been a public critic of PCRM and Dr. Barnard re: their problematic 30-year relationship with my father, the late Henry J. Heimlich MD, known for his namesake anti-choking maneuver.


Peter M. Heimlich
Peachtree Corners, GA 30096 USA
ph: (208)474-7283
Twitter: @medfraud_pmh


The Exam Room™ is the ultimate vegan podcast from the Physicians Committee (for Responsible Medicine). Dr. Neal Barnard, a real-life rock star and authority on plant-based living, motivates and inspires the vegan-curious and those who have been plant-powered for life. Learn the secrets to radically improving your health as show host “The Weight Loss Champion” Chuck Carroll, who lost 265 pounds and kept it off, goes one-on-one with others who have transformed their lives.
Via the web page describing the January 9, 2019 Exam Room podcast:
Also, on the show, you’ll hear from someone at the forefront of the future of nutrition and medicine. Robin Ortiz, M.D., brings her passion and infectious energy to The Exam Room™ to talk about her transformation from a semi-rebellious teenager to a doctor with a keen eye for all things plant-based.

She gives her thoughts on the lack of nutrition education in medical school and talks about being viewed as a “hippy doc” by her colleagues because of her diet. But Dr. Ortiz’s endless supply of optimism and an increasing amount of research is proving that she’s on the right track.
Mr. Carroll’s interview with Dr. Ortiz starts at timestamp 20:30. 

(21:00) Chuck Carroll: (Dr. Robin Ortiz) is the future of plant-based medicine…She will be a featured speaker at (PCRM’s) international conference on nutrition and medicine at some point in her career.

(22:00) CC: This is the Exam Rood podcast brought to you by the Physicians Committee (for Responsible Medicine)...We have one of those future plant-based rock stars...She’s just wrapping up a rotation upstairs at the Barnard Medical Center (BMC). With that we welcome to the program Dr. Robin Ortiz...How’s it been upstairs? This is your final day as we’re taping and I’m sorry. I know we’re gonna miss you.

Dr. Robin Ortiz: I’m gonna miss you guys more than probably most rotations I’ve been on.

CC: How was it? I would assume biasedly that it’s lived up to expectations?

RO: “Lived up to expectations” would be an understatement for sure. So my expectations coming in were I’ve been plant-based myself for quite some time. I know the nutrition, I know the gurus out there like the wonderful Dr. (Neal) Barnard)…I’m coming here to learn a little extra about specific nutritional resources or references. A little bit of information to take home and maybe convince a colleague or two. But I think I’m leaving with a whole new toolbox that I didn’t even know existed which is how to actually help patients understand and I jokingly use the metaphor “digest,” with pun intended, the information that’s out there and take all of the overwhelming amounts of nutritional information that we hear about all the time and simplify it. And I’ve learned a whole new way to do that. And I think no book or video or lecture or conference can teach you that, the way you can when you see patients one on one with dieticians or physicians or MPs or in the various classes that are taught here. It’s a whole other layer of learning that it’s insane that we don’t get that.

(36:25) CC: We’re going to have you speaking at ICNM, our big conference here. [PCRM’s annual International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine.] It’s gonna happen. I hope you realize that.

(40:05) RO: We have these amazing legends that we’re looking up to like Dr. (Neal) Barnard…

(44:00) RO: (My medical colleagues) know me as the hippie that advocates for plant-based nutrition.

(45:50) RO: I hope that I will now being armed with the knowledge of this rotation (at BMC) be able to move forward (my advocacy of a plant-based diet)...I will get out there and spread the message.

(47:00) CC: You can be a rock star. You can be a rock star. Last thing because I think somebody might be listening to this and say, “Hey, well you know what, I am a medical student or “Hey, I’m a resident -- I might be interested in coming doing a rotation at BMC. So you how did you stumble across this?

(48:30) RO: The Barnard Medical Center I came across because as long-standing in plant-based nutrition, I’ve long-followed PCRM. I was a student member and I went to the Veg Fests in DC and Baltimore before it was the cool thing to be a vegan so you might call me a hipster. No, but I went and heard a speaker at the time who – I’m also terrible with names but – somebody who I think was from PCRM or a related organization and (I) was talking to someone on the sidelines about an up and coming medical center that Dr. Barnard was thinking of opening so we’re talking about five years ago -- this was maybe when I was earlier in training. I had – my ears perked and I said I gotta be on the lookout for this. So I was already following the organization, but then I think it was by nature of social media or something that I actually saw the center open three years ago and I was in residency at the time and I just knew that in some way I was going to reach out and do something and then here I am fourth year when I have a lot more elective time and just went ahead and made the elective happen and had my organization agree to let me come.

And although I owed them one or two shifts in clinic, that paid off because I got to go take back to my patients what I’m learning here, so awesome! And you know I had reached out to the department here with my application and it worked out timing-wise, and here I am and it was just amazing. I walk out on day one and Dr. Loomis [James Loomis Jr. MD] is standing there and, y’know I’d just seen Game Changers* and I was like, oh my goodness, where am I? So it was a little shocking and I’ve loved every second of it.

CC: Look at you, havin’ this whirlwind. What has it been, three weeks, four weeks?

RO: Four weeks with Thanksgiving in the middle. I got a couple days that I wasn’t here. But y’know, plant-based Thanksgiving.

CC: (It seems like) that went by fast.

RO: Flew by!

CC: We got the e-mail that you were coming (here), like, yesterday

RO: I know, it feels like yesterday for me, too, but I hope the relationship with PCRM and BMC is just beginning.

* Via
Directed by Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, The Game Changers tells the story of James Wilks — elite special forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter — as he travels the world on a quest for the truth behind the world's most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein, strength and optimal health. Meeting elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his relationship with food and his definition of true strength.
Dr. James Loomis, MD is a board certified internist who served as team physician for the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals. He is currently Medical Director at the Barnard Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and also serves on the clinical faculty of the department of internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine.