Wednesday, 17 June 2009

'New Vegetarianism'

I was all ready to make the above joke after reading this article:
The worst thing about not eating meat isn't the limp salads - it's the other vegetarians
But I was beaten to it by the second comment:
"New Vegetarianists" are so shrill.

Friday, 5 June 2009

NICE infiltrated by Berties

As they say on teh interwebs, quoted for truth:
First the MHRA lets down the public by allowing deceptive labelling of sugar pills (see here, and this this blog). Now it is the turn of NICE to betray its own principles.
If NICE does not reconsider this guidance, it is hard to see how it can be taken seriously in the future...
David Colquhoun on NICE, low back pain, and the Woo-sters here, here, and here.

I think D^2 has an interesting, but ultimately flawed take on it:
Similarly, in the early days of the evidence-based medicine movement, when they were the Young Turks or punk rockers, shaking up a complacent medical establishment that had got out of touch with the cutting edge of medical research, they had the potential to do a lot of good. But now they are the establishment, and as a result of that, the very evidence that they rely on, is shaped by the fact that it needs to appeal to them. The fact that a movement which begun by trying to bring science back into medicine, has now ended up putting its imprimateur on some obvious pseudoscience, ought to worry us more than it does, because this is only the most obvious manifestation of the general problem.
I think he is wrong here, in fact I'm not even sure exactly what he's trying to say is the institutional weakness of Evidence Based Medicine - the strength of EBM is that it has relatively objective and impartial methods to decide questions like this - which is why this failure to adhere to those standards has caused such outrage.

Also, see the guy in the comments lamenting that these EBM enthusiasts have no way to combine data from multiple trials and other misapprehensions.

Simon Singh

Simon Singh is to appeal and fight on against the ridiculous libel action brought by the British Chiropractic Association for his article accusing them of promoting 'bogus' treatments. I urge you to sign the petition about this abuse of the overly harsh libel laws of England & Wales:

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the "libel capital" of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.

Putting any reservations I might have about SaS to one side, this is an important fight - libel law should not be used to shut down scientific disagreements.

free debate