Bmj Usa: Editor's Choice

BMJ lite

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E183

From BMJ USA 2003;Feb:58

Along with “rigorous” and “accessible,” the BMJ mission statement says it should be “entertaining.” Readers find entertainment in its provocative debates and journalistic exposÉs, the lighthearted fillers that appear between articles, and the whimsical remarks about the literature in “Minerva.” One rarely sees this kind of literary style in the more formal pages of major American medical journals.

The BMJ pulls out the stops in its annual Christmas issue, which by tradition offers an eclectic collection of amusing satire, unfamiliar perspectives, and the truly bizarre. To help share this refreshing material with American readers, in our first year of publication we made a point of including a “Christmas issue classic” in each issue of BMJ USA. We have since been unable to keep up this practice. The volume of “serious” articles from the BMJ is simply too large, leaving little room for Christmas classics, and we worry that readers would find it jolting to find satire sandwiched between more staid topics.

But in this issue of BMJ USA, we make an exception and include several articles from the December 2002 Christmas collection. They explore the arts (BMJ USA p 65), spirituality (BMJ USA p 68), soccer matches (BMJ USA p 95), and which diagnostic labels to give to patients with no known disorder (BMJ USA p 89).

Some articles dive directly into the best of BMJ humor. Atkin presents an epidemic curve for the overused phrase “paradigm shift” (BMJ USA p 94), Pai explains the meaning of a “stream” of urologists (BMJ USA p 109), two anesthesiologists list the remarks they do not want to hear (eg, “These scissors are blunt”), and Dunea explains what he would do as world dictator (BMJ USA p 114): “I will outlaw multivitamin pills, ties with horizontal stripes, malpractice lawyers, useless expensive drugs, and hot and cold water taps that turn in opposite directions.”

This issue also features articles on somber topics, such as withdrawing life support in the terminally ill, so the risk of jolting remains. But we hope that readers will forgive the emotional roller coaster and that those who want more entertainment will point their browser to to read the entire Christmas issue.

The Christmas issue also contains articles on serious topics, one of which we reprint here. Southall and O'Hare describe the death toll in poor countries due to military conflicts (BMJ USA p 103). Americans might consider this someone else's problem, but most of the weapons that inflict these injuries are made in the United States. Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary for defense under Ronald Reagan, writes in this issue that “The United States exports more military hardware than the rest of the world combined—about $20 billion a year” (BMJ USA p 108). Does this belong in a medical journal? Perhaps not, but the physician's passion is to prevent deaths, whether the causal agent is bacilli or bullets.

With a world at war, there is too much sadness to bear. It's a time when a bit of humor is welcome, and the BMJ stands ready to help.

Articles cited in Editor's choice are listed below, beginning with their BMJ USA page number

BMJ USA p 65 Spend (slightly) less on health and more on the arts (Smith),

BMJ USA p 68 Spirituality and clinical care (Culliford),

BMJ USA p 95 Admissions for myocardial infarction and World Cup soccer: database survey (Carroll et al),

BMJ USA p 89 What should we say to patients with symptoms unexplained by disease? The “number needed to offend” (Stone et al),

BMJ USA p 94 A paradigm shift in the medical literature (Atkin),

BMJ USA p 109 Collective terms for doctors (Pai),

BMJ USA p 114 If I ruled the world (Dunea),

BMJ USA p 103 Empty arms: the effect of the arms trade on mothers and children (Southall et al),

BMJ USA p 108 Commentary (Korb),

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