Partly false claim: Video shows doctors operating on a dummy to exaggerate extent of coronavirus crisis

UPDATE April 8, 2020:

This fact check has been re-ordered. A paragraph in the original article, which states that the Channel 4 News report was in no way deceptive, has been been moved to an earlier position in this article.

Social media users have been sharing a screenshot from a video produced by Channel 4, implying the UK broadcaster is exaggerating the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in New York. The post claims that Channel 4 filmed a doctor treating a coronavirus patient, but that the ‘patient’ is in fact a mannequin. It suggests that the severity of the crisis is being inflated or fabricated ( here ).

The social media post which is the subject of this check takes the screenshot from the Channel 4 video out of context. The video is not designed to deceive the viewer into thinking the mannequin is a real coronavirus patient. The screenshot is taken from a clip where footage of training on mannequins is used to show how a ventilator works.

The social media post includes the following caption: “CH4 NEWS ON NEW YORK DOCTOR HELPING A COVID 19 PATIENT........LOOK AT THE PICTURES, TAKE AS LONG AS YOU WANT TO.... Just let that picture drip feed into your mind, this is what channel four is doing to you, feeding lies and frightning you, are you not getting the message ppl?”

The screenshot is from a March 31 news report released by Channel 4 about the novel coronavirus in the U.S. ( here ).

The video, posted on Channel 4’s YouTube channel, captures scenes from the Brookdale Hospital emergency room in Brooklyn, New York. It shows many COVID-19 patients in beds receiving treatment. It is clear these are real people, not mannequins. After an interview with a doctor, the reporter outlines the New York Governor’s response to the outbreak. This section of the story is overlaid with footage of a respiratory therapist displaying a ventilator and then demonstrating its use on a mannequin, 2 minutes and 37 seconds into the video.

This is footage from a medical training facility. In the original Channel 4 report, which is 9 minutes and 25 seconds, there is nothing to suggest that this scene is supposed to show an actual COVID-19 patient on a ventilator. A closer look at the clothing and badge on the man in the video reveals that he is a respiratory therapist at Rush University in Chicago, Illinois. The sign behind the bed reads: “No food and/or drinks allowed near mannequins and/or task trainers.”

Rush University mentions its simulation facilities on its website ( here ). It explains: “You will work with high-fidelity manikins that have heartbeats, breathe, and respond to treatment. All physiologic parameters can be adjusted to accurately portray the scenario in fine clinical detail […] Specialized adult manikins are capable of reflecting the processes of intubation, anesthetic administration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and labor and delivery.”

A Rush University spokesperson told Reuters: “The video you asked about was indeed filmed in a simulated setting at Rush University Medical Center, although not in a class.  J. Brady Scott, respiratory therapist at Rush University Medical Center and associate professor in the Rush University Department of Cardiopulmonary Sciences, demonstrated for the Associated Press how ventilators are used.” AP’s video of the exchange is visible here .

This footage was also used by NPR in its reporting about the novel coronavirus ( here ). It is clear this footage is from a medical training facility at Rush University. News organizations appear to be using it to show the respirator and how healthcare workers train to use the machinery. 


Partly false: the ventilator training footage is authentic, but it is taken out of context in the post. The Channel 4 video does not suggest that the mannequin is a real patient.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here .