Trial by media: Is it just and fair?

Media has a great role in shaping the opinion of the society and how people perceive events that take place. It’s no longer just a medium of communication. Media can pronounce a person “guilty” simply by changing the perception.

This is what happened in the coverage of actor Sridevi’s death last month in Dubai, when the media conducted a trial and gave a verdict, even while the post mortem report was awaited. Several theories on what caused her death were making the rounds. Her death became a topic for discussion for almost everyone.

She was 54 years old and according to her family had no history of heart disease. The subtext changed quickly from sudden cardiac arrest to multiple plastic and cosmetic surgeries to diet pills to stress of her celebrity status to alcohol to even discord in her relationship with her husband and depression arising thereof. Her ‘suspicious’ death was also labeled as a possible homicide.

An autopsy may not take place on the same day of the death. Autopsy includes gross examination, blood tests, viscera analysis and histopathology. All these take time.

All these theories came to naught when following the completion of post mortem analysis, Dubai police headquarters stated that the death occurred due to drowning in her hotel apartments bath tub following loss of consciousness.

Media even ruled out cardiac arrest.

The fact is even drowning death cannot occur without cardiac arrest. Drowning death can be seizure or arrhythmic unconsciousness leading to gasping, aspiration of water and death while taking a bath in the tub or falling down in the tub. In the first case, the person will be in the bathing dress and in the second, the person will be fully dressed up.

In medicine, there is always a way of differential diagnosis and until a final diagnosis is reached, it’s not right to speculate.

An unfair media trial creates wrong perceptions, myths and generates fear and apprehension such as multiple cosmetic surgeries may lead to a heart attack.

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