Medical journals and the tobacco industry

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

Surgery in early 20C: less risk – and more

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

Women of science: worthy of note

Post banknotegate, the row about the absence of women on Bank of England notes, about which Anna Jenkin has a different take, highlighting the limits of a focus on individuals in
history
, I came across some interesting blog posts about women in science. In one, Vanessa Heggie chronicles the extraordinary career of Dr Ida H Hyde, inventor of both the
micro-electrode and an octopus restraint system. Of course. Continue reading

Naming and shaming sites that make dubious health claims

Legal, decent, honest and truthful. It doesn’t sound too much to ask, but many traders
continue to use misleading advertising claims on their websites – and the list is dominated by health products.

If the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decides that an online ad does not comply with the UK Advertising Code, it will make repeated requests for the dubious claim to be
amended: if traders still fail to comply, then details of the claim and the ASA decision are published. Looking down the list, it is dominated by health products, including something I misread as psychic dentistry. Continue reading

From compliance to partnership: a different type of patient journey

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

Dripping with melancholy: depression and historical heroes

In 2009, Alistair Campbell and Nigel Jones wrote A World Without: The Fantastic Five, asking what the world would be like if ‘five giants of history’ had been prevented by prejudice from making their enormous contributions. Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Marie Curie: all brilliant, all shapers of the modern world, all lived with significant mental health problems. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, said “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked”.

But could their illnesses actually have helped them in their work? Continue reading

Health internet searches: early warning of drug safety issues?

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