The Self-Correcting Nature of Medical Science: When Was It Wrong?

Medical science is an ever-evolving field, and it is not uncommon for studies to be retracted or recanted due to errors. Last week, for example, Science was forced to retract a breakthrough article suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome could be caused by a virus called XMRV. Similarly, it was found that fish oil does not reduce the risk of heart disease. According to Peter Born, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, this self-correcting nature of science is due to the fact that bad experiments or results are almost always revealed eventually. However, students have raised concerns that practices such as hacking can do greater harm when it causes science to lose credibility in the public eye.

In two periods following this, the proportion of publications referring to “medication error” decreased (to 31.7 and 32.8%, respectively). This diversification of research topics has been supported by the emergence of new terms. Medical journals benefit from studies that suggest breakthroughs and, of course, the media like flashy headlines. Peter Born also discussed p-hacking, which is when researchers are pressured to obtain positive results in order to win funding. This raises the difficult question of whether medical research problems should be passed on to the public.

A study was conducted to quantitatively analyze the existing scientific literature on medical errors in order to obtain new knowledge in this important area of medical research. Erick Turner, a psychiatrist at Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon, caused a stir in the world of psychiatry a few years ago when he published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that most clinical trials that found antidepressants to be ineffective were never published or were presented with positive results. He suggested that an obsession with winning funding has weakened the reliability of medical research. A better understanding of medical errors can be of great importance because it can lead to approaches that aim at their reduction. As a result, a research study on blood pressure drugs and COVID-19 was withdrawn from the New England Journal of Medicine. Reshma Jagsi, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, questioned whether conflicts of interest were influencing the results. The supplement ginkgo biloba is widely used in ancient Chinese medicine and is still promoted as a way to preserve memory.

Erick Turner chose to publish an article in PLoS Medicine, which is committed to publishing any methodologically sound article without regard to how “interesting the results can be”.Medical science is an ever-evolving field and mistakes are inevitable. However, it is important for researchers and scientists to remain vigilant and strive for accuracy in their work so as not to lose credibility with the public. By understanding medical errors better and taking steps towards reducing them, we can ensure that medical science remains reliable and trustworthy.

Theodore Eflin
Theodore Eflin

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