Nature recently published an excellent list of 20 things policymakers should understand about interpreting scientific claims, by William J Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A Burgman, academics from Cambridge and Melbourne. Included are reminders that “scientists are human” and that “correlation does not imply causation”, as well as practical examples explaining why “regression to the mean can mislead” or how to “beware the base rate fallacy”. Continue reading
The BMJ has announced that it will no longer consider consider research funded by the tobacco industry, in whole or part, for publication. It is time, say the editors of the BMJ, Heart,
Thorax, and BMJ Open, “to cease supporting the now discredited notion that tobacco industry funded research is just like any other research”. They cite the increasing evidence that peer review and declaration of funding is not enough: funding can Continue reading
Scientific advances such as anaesthesia meant that surgery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries started to be seen as safe – but at the same time more risky. Surgeons, buoyed by early successes, started undertaking more risky procedures, in greater volumes,
accompanied by a media-fuelled moral panic about experimentation and vivisection. These apparent paradoxes are explored in a recent article that looks at attitudes to risk and responsibility by surgeons, their patients and the public, as well as the risks faced by the early women surgeons. Continue reading
The BMJ has called for a patient revolution, a “fundamental shift in the power structure in healthcare” in which patients improve healthcare, and not just for themselves. This is not just about engaging patients with specific decisions affecting their care, moving away from the idea of doctors’ orders or compliance, in which patients take the dose of medicine prescribed for them. It is about opening up the whole decision-making process to patients as partners. Continue reading
One common use of the internet is to search for health information. Could an analysis of search terms, and a little detective work, help provide early clues about drug side effects, before more traditional methods such as official reporting systems have kicked in? Continue reading
Bans on smoking in public places are linked with reductions in preterm births, says a study from Belgium published in the BMJ, which introduced smoke-free bans in three steps. Each time a ban was bought in, the risk of babies being born before 37 weeks fell. There were no downward trends in the period before the bans – and other factors such as ‘flu epidemics did not seem to explain the differences either. So, good news for the public health benefits of smoking bans as premature birth is an important health risk factor.
Mrs Blood, Dr Crook, Mrs Killer and Mrs Tipler – which would you choose to be your birth attendant?
These people all practised in Derbyshire early in the twentieth century. Dr Crook was a male GP, Frances Killer was a qualified, trained midwife, and Elizabeth Tipler was a ‘bona fide’ midwife – she had no training but was registered, and had some experience. Mrs Blood was one of a diminishing band of uncertified, untrained ‘handywomen’ who delivered babies and helped afterwards. Which had the best outcomes, for the mothers and babies they cared for? The answer is surprising and may also help explain why birth outcomes did not improve much at first after midwifery became a regulated profession in 1902. Continue reading