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If, in all the centuries since Galen in which physicians were
slaughtering their patients, they had been content to only use treatments
that were effective by the robust standards that Penston proposes, they
would have had little to do but millions of patients would have been
saved. Alas, the problem is not that physicians have had a natural
therapeutic conservatism that modern statistical methods have overthrown
but that they have been only too glad to rush in and bleed patients as a
cure for everything. Indeed, your rival publication, the Lancet, is named
after the favoured weapon of mass destruction.
In the words of Artemus Ward, "It's not the things we don't know that
harm us, it's the things we know that ain't so". It is only since doctors
learned to count that they have begun to discover how many things ain't
so. To those who doubt it, I recommend a strong dose of David Wootton's
excellent book, Bad Medicine1.
1Wootton, D (2006) Bad Medicine: Medicine since Hippocrates, Oxford
University Press, Oxford
I am a statistician and therefore biased in favour of evidence and logic.