BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7290.874 (Published 07 April 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:874

Minerva has often heard senior researchers claim that clinical trials are good for participants whether or not they receive the “winning” treatment. Ironically, evidence for this assertion is slim. A systematic search by epidemiologists from Birmingham found 14 articles on the side effects of randomised trials, but most of those considered only cancer trials and the data were poor (Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2001;54:217-24). The epidemiologists conclude that participating in a cancer trial may have a small beneficial effect, but researchers should think twice before extrapolating to other areas.

Doctors who can't fit poetry into their busy schedule are probably not missing anything, according to an ethicist from Sydney (Internal Medicine Journal 2001;31:60-1). Reading and writing poetry is great if you enjoy it, but it doesn't make you a nicer, cleverer, or better doctor than others who prefer to relax in other ways. Patients want doctors with good clinical skills and a human, caring approach. Teaching poetry to medical students is unlikely to help them acquire either, he says.

Greenland, the largest island on earth, with a population of only 55 000, is not the kind of place most people associate with tuberculosis. In the 1950s, however, it had more cases per head of population than …

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