Mayo Clinic disputes CNN's 'inaccurate, irresponsible' patient escape story

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic on Aug. 15 published a letter it sent CNN regarding its "inaccurate, incomplete and irresponsible" story detailing a patient's "escape" from the institution.

The letter was in response to a CNN report published earlier this week documenting a Minnesota couple's attempt to remove their then-18-year-old daughter from the facility last February, citing issues with care providers.

The Aug. 15 letter to CNN explains the organization "value[s] the role of the news media and [does] not expect unanimously favorable coverage. … But, what we do expect is accurate and fair reporting. For 18 months, we shared information to help the CNN reporters investigate the facts of the situation. They clearly understood our concern for the patient's safety, they chose to ignore those concerns and did not check or report on public records associated with this case right up to the point the story aired/was published," the letter states.

The health system specifically pointed to several instances of "inaccurate reporting," including "the reporters' firm commitment to a predetermined narrative despite contrary facts" and "contacting direct patient care staff with veiled threats and asking them to breach confidentiality in order to corroborate information."

Chris Gade, chair of the department of public affairs at the Mayo Clinic, said in a prepared statement executives met with CNN for more than four hours to provide the reporters with context to inform their reporting.

"While we knew the reporter[s were] focused on a predetermined narrative, the information we provided should have helped them see that their premise was inaccurate. Instead they chose to ignore that information. We were shocked and deeply saddened by the wholly inaccurate and incomplete reporting that was published," Mr. Gade said.

Charles Harper, MD, executive dean for practice at the Mayo Clinic, added that the system does not normally respond to media requests for such stories, but chose to do so in this case.

"We chose not to be interviewed by CNN for the story because doing so would bring negative publicity to a vulnerable adult in a suspected abusive family environment," he said. "Because of the egregious errors in the story — and the fact that the public is left believing such false and sensational claims about our dedicated and hard-working staff — we were left no choice but to share more information about the situation. This is a decision we do not take lightly, and it is highly unusual for us."

To access the Mayo Clinic's full letter to CNN, click here.

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