The Dorset Echo has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission over a story headlined ‘Mum’s plea over organ donations’which was inaccurate and intrusive.
The man who complained suffered from cystic fibrosis and the story in question reported that his mother said he needed a new heart and lungs.
The complainant said that his mother had been asked questions by a journalist on her views of current events, during which she said she favoured a scheme where people ‘opt out’rather than ‘opt in’to approve organ donations because of her son’s illness.
She said she did not recall saying that her son needed a new heart and lungs and that in any case, he did not.
The complainant said he considered the references to his health to be intrusive and that he did not give consent for his details or his photograph to be published.
The newspaper said that the story was published in good faith, based on information from the complainant’s mother.
It provided the reporter’s notes of the conversation, which included the quote that the complainant needed ‘a new heart and lungs”.
The newspaper said that it had arranged with the complainant’s mother for a photograph to be taken to accompany the story but that she had cancelled the appointment, saying that her son had had to return to hospital.
The newspaper contacted the complainant’s colleagues to obtain a photograph and told the PCC that it was not aware of any objections to publication of it.
Upholding the complaint, the PCC said: ‘The information in the article – that the complainant had cystic fibrosis, and the claim that he needed a heart and lung transplant – was obviously highly personal. It was also accompanied by a photograph that widely identified him.
‘While it was not in dispute that the complainant’s mother had volunteered that her son had the illness, it was also accepted that the newspaper did not obtain permission from the complainant himself to publish the information. Given the circumstances of the story, the newspaper could have waited to ensure that the complainant – who was an adult and able to speak for himself – was willing for his health details to be publicised in his local newspaper.
‘The Commission noted that the newspaper had pointed to conversations with the complainant’s mother. This demonstrated that, even if the information was intrusive, some care had been taken to get it right.
‘But once the complainant himself had made clear that the information was inaccurate – both before and during his complaint – the newspaper should immediately have sought to remedy his concerns. It had not done so.”