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How important is reading critically?

02 March 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 3


In an era of ‘Fake News’ claims, it is even more important to critically appraise the scientific literature that provides evidence-based advice for midwives. George Winter explains

On my bookshelf is a copy of Francis Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World (2004), in which cults, quacks and New Age mystics are hilariously exposed as charlatans. By contrast, in areas where it really matters, such as science and medicine, there is a solid bedrock of published evidence from which reliable judgments and opinions can be inferred.

But not always. Recently, and in quick succession, I have encountered three publications that should cause any health professional to reflect on the importance of critically appraising that which purports to be fact.

First, writing in the New York Review of Books, Dr Marcia Angell (2009) stated: ‘It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.’ A startling observation, since Dr Angell's conclusion was ‘reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.’

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