When CNN reporter has trouble remembering…


For Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporter and former neurosurgeon, what he did in Nepal is just a blurry memory.

Gupta was in Nepal right after the earthquake, and he turned out to be very useful for a patient.

All that Gupta knows is that he helped the Nepali doctors to perform a craniotomy. But Gupta commited 2 ethical misconducts…

  • As a surgeon: he didn’t pay attention to whom he was performing surgery on.
  • As a journalist: he mixed up the names and injuries of two patients on CNN.

The Global Press Journal noticed the error when one of their reporters interviewed the girl who supposedly just had a craniotomy… Turns out, it wasn’t her.

Gupta described wounds such as ““She has a fractured skull, a blood clot, and her brain is swelling,” he said. “Without emergency surgery, she’ll have permanent damage. Or, like so many other earthquake victims, she’ll die.”

Gupta attributed those wounds to an 8-year-old called Salina Dahal when he was talking about the 14-year-old Sandhya Chalise.

Poynter points out that “In a subsequent on-air CNN report, Gupta was shown in front of a gurney with eight-year-old Salina Dahal sitting on the gurney.”

And it gets worse…

“After briefly showing Gupta in an operating room, the CNN correspondent hails the surgery as a success and says, “Salina will live.”,” wrote for Poynter.

After CNN got notified of the mistake, here is what an editor published:

“Questions have arisen about the identity of the girl who Dr. Sanjay Gupta helped operate on during a week in Nepal in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. CNN is looking into those questions and will update our coverage as warranted. Gupta helped doctors at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu perform a craniotomy in a makeshift operating room on a young patient as described in this story; it is the identity of the patient that is in question.” (Source Poynter)

What a big screw up for Gupta.

It is clear that Gupta saved a life, and that is the most important thing but, when you work for CNN, you should know better… Check the names!!


Photo credit: European Commission, Nepal earthquake 2015. Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved.


2 thoughts on “When CNN reporter has trouble remembering…

  1. This example raises lots of interesting questions, Audrey, and illustrates some of the challenges of functioning as both a physician and a journalist on the same assignment. A follow up question for another day: What ethics guidelines might be useful to CNN and Gupta on subsequent assignments where he might end up playing both roles?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The mistake Gupta made here is that he (and CNN) presumed that a person is correct on writing their own experience. But human memory proves to be unreliable. Even when quoting someone saying “I remember…,” a reporter should check the facts with other possible sources (unless there is none.) And Gupta was overconfident. This case reminds me of the Pulitzer Prize-winning story “Fatal Distraction (http://wapo.st/1sqIYMg)” about parents accidentally kill their kids. I would say Gupta’s mistake is common one, but as a journalist, he should have checked the fact again before reporting the story.


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