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The new religion: screening at your parish church

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 20 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1940
  1. Charles Warlow, emeritus professor of medical neurology, University of Edinburgh
  1. charles.warlow{at}

    Unusually for me, I went to church. On a Monday. Not to ask forgiveness or to sing a hymn, or to be instructed from the pulpit, but to be screened. After all, if Liverpool Anglican Cathedral can be a venue for corporate dinners, why not a mere church for health (disease) screening?

    A vascular screening company had come to town after leafleting many of my neighbours with the message that “four out of five people who suffered a stroke had no apparent warning signs.” I imagine they meant transient ischaemic attacks. In fact four out of five people with a stroke have and are generally known to have one or more vascular risk factors, such as hypertension or atrial fibrillation (not signs maybe, but certainly prognostic signposts). But we mustn’t let awkward facts get in the way of marketing, particularly not to the “worried wealthy” of Edinburgh.

    So, without revealing my interest in stroke prevention for the past 30 years, I signed on, paid £152 (€170; $230), and turned up at church, along with other older people who didn’t look as healthy as me. (I thought I had better hide my cycle helmet.) First up was aortic aneurysm screening with …

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