The curious case of CareConfidential’s Information Standard certification

I realize the title of this article will make sense to approximately no-one, so I’ll start with some definitions. CareConfidential will be familiar to many UK feminists: along with LIFE, they run one of the largest crisis pregnancy centre networks in the UK. The Information Standard is a scheme set up by the Department of Health to help members of the public decide which sources of health information are trustworthy. Organisations that produce health information apply to be certified, and if successful they have the right to display the Information Standard mark.

The Information Standard website tells us:

To achieve the Standard, an organisation has to demonstrate that the consumer/patient information that it produces is;

Clear
Accurate
Impartial
Balanced
Evidence-Based
Accessible
Up to date

theinformationstandard.org/about/ accessed 2 Oct 2012

(As an aside, at the moment the Information Standard website either takes several minutes to load or doesn’t load at all, but you can get an idea of it by viewing the source, copy this into a text editor like Notepad or Gedit, save as ‘hello.html’ and then open this file in your web browser.)

I was very surprised when I saw the Information Standard mark proudly displayed on CareConfidential’s website (scroll to the bottom). My first reaction was to wonder if this was a mistake, but sure enough CareConfidential appears on the list of certified organisations.

CareConfidential simply does not meet the requirements for Information Standard certification, which include requirements that information be impartial, balanced, and evidence-based. CareConfidential is a pro-life organisation which has repeatedly been caught giving out medically incorrect information designed to frighten clients out of considering an abortion. Their website strongly suggests, against the best scientific evidence, that most or all women who have an abortion will experience emotional trauma, and includes a section on ‘post-abortion syndrome’, a condition recognized only by pro-life campaigners, and for which there is no scientific basis.

A further example of the biased and unbalanced nature of the material provided on CareConfidential’s website is the film ‘Rhiannon’s Journey’. This film shows a number of women talking about their experiences of suffering emotional trauma as a result of having an abortion, and is very emotive and difficult to watch. This is not a balanced depiction of the experience of having an abortion. I am sure that the individual women featured in the film were truthfully describing their own experiences, but the editorial choice to include only one type of experience in the film is very biased. The best evidence shows that for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, abortion is not associated with any increased risk of psychological problems, and the majority of women who have an abortion do not suffer any psychological problems as a result.

CareConfidential themselves appear to agree that they do not meet the requirements of the Information Standard certification. On another page of their own website they state:

Whilst CareConfidential endeavours to ensure that the information on careconfidential.com is up to date and correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and CareConfidential accepts no liability for error or omission.

careconfidential.com/disclaimer.aspx accessed 2 Oct 2012

But a “warranty as to the accuracy of information” is exactly what the Information Standard is. That’s the whole point; it’s supposed to help members of the public select health information that is trustworthy.

It’s hard to understand how CareConfidential came to be awarded this certification. What checks were carried out? Did anyone qualified to judge the quality of medical information even look at their website? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that some of the private companies that administer the Information Standard are treating it as nothing more than a very profitable rubber stamp. The result is that the scheme has the opposite effect as intended, with members of the public potentially being misled as to which sources of health information are trustworthy.

To me being pro-choice means more than just wanting safe and legal access to abortion, it means that an individual’s right to make her own choice, in a way that is right for her, must be respected and supported. For some women talking to a CareConfidential counsellor might be the right thing to do, and this is a choice that I fully support. However CareConfidential should not be allowed to advertise themselves as offering impartial and evidence-based information when this is simply not the case. A choice that a person makes after being lied to is no choice at all.

I’ll write to my MP, Julian Huppert, about this, and I’ll post any updates to the blog as they come.

NOTES

1. The best scientific evidence shows that abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems:

aomrc.org.uk/publications/reports-a-guidance/doc_download/9432-induced-abortion-and-mental-health.html

bbc.co.uk/news/health-16094906

2. CareConfidential has given out biased or incorrect medical information:

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9577247.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/02/abortion-pregnancy-counselling-found-wanting

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2 Comments on “The curious case of CareConfidential’s Information Standard certification”

  1. Alexa says:

    Excellent sleuthing KM!

  2. […] We’re still very concerned about CareConfidential’s (mis)use of the Information Standard certification mark on their website. This certification only applies to materiels such as pamphlets or videos, not to counselling; but this isn’t mentioned anywhere on the website, creating a false impression that their counselling services are accredited by the Department for Health. (There’s also an earlier post about CareConfidential and the Information Standard). […]


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