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Lest we forgive

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 14 August 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:459
  1. John Paul Leach, senior registrar in neurology and neurophysiology
  1. Liverpool

    As the century ends, the proliferation in medical literature has made it increasingly easy to become lazy about the quality and source of any data with which we are presented. This struck home as I was browsing through a CD Rom textbook (Neurobase, Arbor Inc, 1999). While skimming through theories on the aetiology of multiple sclerosis, my mind's wandering was interrupted by a feeling of unease. I returned to the end of the preceding paragraph:

    “Humans injected with multiple sclerosis brain extracts are not at an increased risk of multiple sclerosis.”

    We all have a duty to avoid recognising any work that is less than ethically rigorous

    This was an arresting sentence: injection with diseased brain extract? Who could have carried out such a study? Could anyone have given informed consent? The study author was named as Dr Schaltenbrand, and my suspicions about the nature of the work increased when the German title of the book, published in Leipzig in 1943, was translated …

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