Complaint 00410-17 Lennox v The Scotsman
Summary of complaint
1. Sarah Lennox complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scotsman breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Dare to debate this damaging idea that gender is a social construct”, published on 19 January 2017.
2. The complainant expressed concern that the newspaper had published an opinion piece that included comments made by Professor Paul McHugh which had given the significantly misleading impression that the John Hopkins Medical School, one of the first institutions in the world to offer gender reassignment surgery, did not offer the procedures because they were “harmful”. She said in his role as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Professor McHugh had ended gender reassignment surgery at the medical school in 1978, but that he had retired from this role 16 years ago, and the medical school had since made clear that it was now “committed to providing gender reassignment surgery”. She noted that the school had issued a statement in relation to Professor McHugh’s comments, which said “when individuals associated with John Hopkins exercise the right of expression, they do not speak on behalf of the institution”.
3. The newspaper accepted that the article had given the incorrect impression that gender reassignment procedures were no longer being carried out at the John Hopkins Medical School. It offered to amend the online article, and to publish the following statement:
"In an article entitled “Dare to debate this damaging idea that gender is a social construct", David Robertson, of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, wrote: ‘Professor Paul McHugh of the John Hopkins Medical School, one of the first to offer gender reassignment surgery, now says the process is so harmful they have stopped doing so.’
We have been informed that, although John Hopkins Medical School stopped carrying out genitoplasty under Prof McHugh's direction in the 1970s, it has since reversed this policy and is now ‘fully committed to providing gender-affirming surgery’. An official statement issued in 2016 confirmed that the decision to resume this surgery was taken as the result of ‘careful consideration over the past year of best practices and the appropriate provision of care for transgender individuals’. We are happy to set the record straight."
Relevant Code provisions
4. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
5. The complainant said that the publication of the correction in print and as a footnote to the online article would resolve the matter to her satisfaction. The parties also agreed that a statement would be published on IPSO’s website as a part of the resolution.
6. As the complaint was resolved between the parties, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 20/01/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/03/2017
Back to ruling listing