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Facing criticism from Mayo Clinic, CNN defends its reporting

Facing criticism from Mayo Clinic, CNN defends its reporting

The war of words between CNN and Mayo Clinic — both heavyweights in their respective industries — escalated on Friday, with CNN responding with an exhaustive 4,700-word repudiation of attacks launched by Mayo.

In an updated post to its website, which you can read here, CNN says statements made this week by Mayo Clinic misrepresented the facts and caused further trauma to the patient involved, Alyssa Gilderhus.

Further, CNN claims Mayo — which two days earlier called the network's coverage "inaccurate, incomplete and irresponsible" — failed to point out any facts that CNN got wrong. As of this writing, CNN has not made any corrections or changes to the report it published Monday.

"CNN did not have a 'firm commitment to a pre-determined narrative,'" the network said Friday. "CNN spent more than 17 months reporting this story, exploring every angle and accusation made by the family."

The two-part report, titled "Escape from the Mayo Clinic," tells the story of Alyssa, a former patient at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. Alyssa and her family say Mayo clinicians saved her life during an emergency surgery after a blood vessel burst inside her brain on Christmas Day.

From there, though, the family says Alyssa was moved to a rehabilitation facility, where doctors refused to address their concerns. Tensions soon exploded, CNN reports, and the mother was banned from the hospital.

The family and Mayo are at odds about whether there was a request to have Alyssa transferred to a different facility. Mayo said it "never denied a request from the family to transfer the patient to a different facility."

But on Friday, CNN suggested Mayo is being untruthful: "Mayo refuses to acknowledge that the patient in this story, Alyssa Gilderhus, an adult, asked to be transferred, and that her family asked as well. Mayo claims that it had no idea Alyssa wanted to leave Mayo, even though there's written proof that she did, and Mayo had access to those writings."

The family ended up sneaking Alyssa out of the hospital, recording the entire experience on a GoPro camera. Mayo, along with other critics, have accused CNN reporters of being sensational with their storytelling.

Still, CNN said the reporting team did its homework, including checking court records for accusations of abuse (it said it found none at the time). 

"Mayo fails to discuss that while it said it would be dangerous for her to go home, she has flourished in the year and a half since she left Mayo," CNN said, adding Alyssa no longer needs therapy and will soon start college.

CNN said it spoke to Alyssa on Thursday. According to the network, "Alyssa expressed sadness that Mayo was continuing to attack her and her family." Earlier reports from Mayo Clinic, MPR News, and others, had referenced domestic problems and alleged drug use by Alyssa's mother.

"This is about me, not my mother," Alyssa said.

Key points outlined Friday by CNN

Below are what CNN described on Friday as the four important points it wanted to get across. They are being published unedited.

(We did the same for Mayo Clinic on Wednesday.)

First, Mayo has been inaccurate and untruthful about what transpired during the March 28 meeting. Officials' own claims contradict what their staffers wrote  clearly and unequivocally — in emails to CNN.

Second, nothing that was stated in the March 28 meeting changes CNN's story.

Third, Mayo has continued to focus on what officials perceive as inappropriate behavior by Alyssa's mother, instead of on the allegations that Alyssa's rights as a patient had been violated. Mayo has not explained why a mother's allegedly inappropriate behavior would impact the rights of an adult patient.

Fourth, while Mayo has said that Alyssa has been their top concern, Alyssa says she was treated as an "object" by Mayo and that their attacks on CNN's story have traumatized her even more.

Mayo calls CNN reporting 'sensationalized'

Mayo had earlier sent a letter to CNN calling the story sensational and accusing the network's reporters of sticking to a pre-determined narrative, despite contrary facts. Mayo said the reporters chose to disregard and not investigate evidence shared with them in off-the-record meetings.

Related: Mayo Clinic refutes claims made in 'sensational' CNN report

“This case was escalated to the highest levels of leadership, and the care team worked with this family on a daily basis to listen and resolve their concerns," Dr. Charles Harper, executive dean for practice, said in a statement Wednesday. "The needs, welfare and safety of the patient during a potentially life-threatening situation were our top priority, and at the same time we were dealing with a very complex situation with extremely challenging family dynamics involving a vulnerable patient."

On Friday, following CNN's rebuttal, Mayo said it firmly stands behind its statements regarding the care of the patient and its interactions with CNN.

"Our thorough, internal review determined that the care team’s actions, in addition to being lifesaving, were true to Mayo’s primary value and we fully support the actions of our staff," the clinic said, adding that a "prolonged public debate is not in the best interest of the patient or our staff."

You can read Mayo's full statement from Friday here.

Ronald McDonald House of Rochester receives $3.3 million grant

Ronald McDonald House of Rochester receives $3.3 million grant

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