Bmj Usa: Editor's Choice

To tell the truth

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E101

This article originally appeared in BMJ USA

Carl Bernstein says that journalists seek “the best obtainable version of the truth.” The same applies to researchers, who test hypotheses about the truth. The quest for facts is an asymptotic process: better evidence makes us ever more certain about the truth, but we never quite get there.

Evidence that parathyroid hormone decreases osteoporotic fractures (BMJ USA p 202) or that tumor necrosis factor α blockade diminishes rheumatoid symptoms (BMJ USA p 193) seemingly demonstrates their effectiveness. But whether that is true depends on how effectiveness is defined. Some would say the evidence must show that the magnitude of benefits outweighs the harms.

Enthusiasts for evidence-based medicine sometimes forget the …

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