Are Elite Medical Journals Reliable? Depends.
False Positive by Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) 239 pp hardcover $17.79 Kindle $15.49 ISBN 9781641770460 (Encounter Books NYC) 2019.
On occasion I have written articles here at American Thinker, criticizing top rank medical journals of editorial malfeasance, particularly on two politically charged topics, global warming/climate change, and air quality health risks. I don’t take those criticisms back at all -- and False Positive: A Year of Error, Omission, and Political Correctness in The New England Journal of Medicine, published this year by extraordinary physician/psychiatrist/author/essayist Anthony Daniels (pen name Theodore Dalrymple) is an excellent exhibit to support my position.
Dr. Daniels, author of more than 30 books and more than a thousand published essays at many different outlets on medical/cultural/legal/philosophical/foreign affairs issues, reviewed every 2017 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably the most prominent of medical journals in the world, and concluded they are pathetically inclined to publish trash in matters that are politically charged.
Dr. Daniels explains:
I was encouraged to write this book after my nephew, who is a medical student in Paris, asked my help before the examination that he was about to take in the proper, critical way to read a medical research paper.
The causes of (medical journal) error are multitudinous and range from carelessness to dishonesty, from wishful thinking to outright corruption with everything in between.
My project has been twofold: first to alert readers to the sickly self-righteousness that seems to me to have infected the New England Journal of Medicine, contracted no doubt from the wider culture, and second, to attune them to the ambiguities of the medical research that are inescapably ethical in nature.
My hope is that readers will come to see how complex and difficult medical research is, and how they should remain skeptical of medical findings reported in the general media.
January: Daniels identifies a failure of NEJM to identify the cause of the Cholera epidemic in Haiti in 2010 and 2011 that killed 10,000. Nepali troops introduced it as members of a UN rescue mission.
NEJM article fails to discuss relative versus absolute benefits in any cogent way, leaving open the question of real benefit from colonoscopy as a screening for colon cancer.
In a follow up on the Haiti cholera epidemic, Dr. Daniels relates that the actual mortality figures for the Haiti cholera event were underestimated by as much as 8 times.
February: some discussions about the uncertainties of prescribing opiates and the problems of fentanyl and opiate overdoses as well as the problem of pain management and opiate dependence. Then a discussion about the article on cannabis and Daniels questions the idea that the goal of life should be self-indulgence.
March: a discussion of the problem of the precautionary principle and the ever present plaintiff attorneys. Then a discussion of drug dependency and rehab, followed by psychobabble. PSA screening—does it make sense?
April: global warming health effects.
May: transgender issues, problems with asthma, and heart failure treatments
June: risks of addiction, socioeconomic factors in health, the advantages of primary care as opposed to specialty access, the health benefits for the incarcerated, Air Pollution with an excellent analysis of the epidemiology of the claims of air pollution deaths and disease.
July: obesity effects, costs of marginally beneficial treatments,
August: a fine article advising on skeptical assessment of the literature and researcher claims. The decline of rheumatic heart disease. Choices to be made on lifestyle diseases like Hepatitis C.
September: the inferiority of American Healthcare.
October: drug trials, bureaucratization of healthcare, gun control
November: best heart valves, screening athletes,
December: an in-depth discussion of epidemiological principles, a discussion of the genome project promises,
In his conclusion Dr. Daniels says “insofar as the Journal expresses social attitudes they are all . . . politically correct.” “The NEJM seems to me to be a manifestation of a dangerous tendency in our society, that of self-enclosure in an ideological laager.”
Dr. Daniels is too kind. The medical journals function as another propaganda tool of the Left, not to be underestimated. Their biases are intentional and they make a difference in the cultural battle, a difference that must be neutralized. They lie for political reasons -- they are involved in the noble lie, the lie designed to influence the public mindset for a political agenda.
Graphic credit: Amazon
John Dale Dunn MD JD is an emergency and corrections physician, an inactive attorney, in Brownwood, Texas.