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Gordie Howe’s Stem Cell ‘Miracle’: A Qualitative Analysis of News Coverage and Readers’ Comments in Newspapers and Sports Websites

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Stem cells continue to garner attention by the news media and play a role in public and policy discussions of emerging technologies. As new media platforms develop, it is important to understand how different news media represents emerging stem cell technologies and the role these play in public discussions. We conducted a comparative analysis of newspaper and sports websites coverage of one recent high profile case: Gordie Howe’s stem cell treatment in Mexico. Using qualitative coding methods, we analyzed news articles and readers’ comments from Canadian and US newspapers and sports websites. Results indicate that the efficacy of stem cell treatments is often assumed in news coverage and readers’ comments indicate a public with a wide array of beliefs and perspectives on stem cells and their clinical efficacy. Media coverage that presents uncritical perspectives on unproven stem cell therapies may create patient expectations, may have an affect on policy discussions, and help to feed the marketing of unproven therapies. However, news coverage that provides more balanced or critical coverage of unproven stem cell treatments may also inspire more critical discussion, as reflected in readers’ comments.

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We gratefully acknowledge the generous funding support provided by the Canadian National Transplant Research Program and Canada’s Stem Cell Network for funding. We also thank Nathaniel Brenneis for research assistance and the team at the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


The authors indicate no potential conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Christen Rachul or Timothy Caulfield.

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Rachul, C., Caulfield, T. Gordie Howe’s Stem Cell ‘Miracle’: A Qualitative Analysis of News Coverage and Readers’ Comments in Newspapers and Sports Websites. Stem Cell Rev and Rep 11, 667–675 (2015).

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