Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.
Is there a role for speculative journals like Medical Hypotheses in the scientific literature? (David Gorski) Medical Hypotheses is a non-peer-reviewed journal that publishes “radical, speculative and non-mainstream scientific ideas,” some of which are demonstrably wrong; yet its articles are cited as scientific evidence by racists, AIDS denialists, and anti-vaccine activists. Speculation may serve a purpose, but it should be clearly labeled as such and not published in such a way that it could easily be confused with legitimate scientific research.
Diagnosis, Therapy and Evidence (Harriet Hall) A review of a new book with this title, explaining that “many claims about the causes of disease, therapeutic practices, and even diagnoses are shaped by beliefs that are unscientific, unproven, or completely wrong.” Artificially constructed categories and early hypotheses can mislead us: scientists should constantly reassess whether any other explanations might fit the data.
How bad can health reporting get? (Peter Lipson) A surgeon turned faith healer/acupuncturist/shaman was featured in a TV news report that was totally credulous and amounted to an infomercial for his practice. A responsible reporter would have questioned the doctor’s claims and addressed the chicanery of faith healers.
Mainstream Media’s Sub-Par Health Coverage, Part 2 (Val Jones) A followup on an interview that was misrepresented in the final article due to interference by editors and a misguided quest for “balance.” Journalists often do not have the depth of experience to handle complicated health topics and do not represent important scientific nuances correctly.
The Evolving Science and Guidelines of CPR (Joseph Albietz) New guidelines for CPR recommend only chest compressions (without rescue breathing) for adults, but the guidelines don’t apply to children because they are more likely to have respiratory arrests than cardiac arrests. CPR isn’t the lifesaving miracle depicted in the media: it restores heartbeat temporarily but if the underlying cause isn’t addressed, the heart will promptly stop again.