The limit of humor in science, healing prayers and the advice to avoid birthday surgeons – 12/25/2020 – Luciano Melo

BMJ (British Medical Journal) is one of the most important medical journals in the world. An article from 1982, which tells the story of a successful “revival” in 1650, made its debut in a tradition: At the end of each year the BMJ for a moment breaks away from its gloomy retrospect. The room is occupied by subjects that are not so serious, although obedience to strict academic standards persists.

That is why we have a festive spirit, the core of which is originality. This way, satire and good humor are welcomed by the editors, but misleading or bogus articles are rejected. This is the opportunity for pearls to show up, e.g. B. Researching the side effects of swallowing swords and the risk of shaking your throat while listening to heavy metal music.

But games often lead to controversy. Leonard Leibovici raised controversy in his 2001 article, “Effects of Remote and Retrospective Prayer of Intercession on Results in Patients with Blood Infection: Randomized Clinical Trial”.

The author conducted an experiment, the first step of which was to identify all the patients who had suffered a blood infection in an Israeli hospital. Then the individuals were divided into two groups. A person removed from the hospital received a list with the first name of all members of only one of the groups. She said a short prayer for everyone in this group and asked for the welfare and full recovery of its members. People whose names were not on the list did not receive good intentions.

Finally, the medical information recorded about all patients was evaluated. The surprise: there were fewer deaths in the group of patients treated by prayer. Detail, the prayer took place between 4 and 10 years after the infection, when the clinical procedures had already been completed.

Leibovici’s goal was not to wholeheartedly lead readers to be an effective prayer, even for changing the past. The intention was different: to show that a scientific paper with absurd premises can achieve any result. However, the article was taken seriously by some, which guaranteed citations even from the Cochrane Library, a trusted institution for the dissemination of evidence-based medicine.

Other writers, knowing whether they are well-intentioned or not, used Leibovici’s “thesis” to translate BMJ’s credibility onto their own stupid theories. Thus the idea of ​​the writer Stephan Schwartz that “fundamental life processes depend on quantum transfers in earlier times” received a scientific veneer. In making this claim, the irony found in the texts of the Christmas edition was completely ignored.

To support nonsense, critics of Leibovici argue that his article should be banned or preceded by a warning to expose all of the sarcasm. The author defends himself and states that his research followed scientific rigor, so he is not wrong. It is emphasized that the absurd conclusion is the result of an absurd premise. It is a prerequisite for the good scientist not to be naive.

Fortunately, the humorous tradition follows. Texts laden with originality continue to be published in December every year. In 2020 we already have materials to refine our mood and criticism.

One of this year’s studies found that completely numb patients with headphones that convey good suggestions and optimistic words experienced less pain after surgery. In another article, a group of surgeons showed that monkeys as orthopedists decide the best treatment for a very complicated type of fracture for which a therapeutic consensus has not yet been defined.

However, one of the published studies should be included in a reputable edition of the BMJ, as it showed that patients who underwent urgent surgery by doctors who would have birthdays on the day of the operation were at higher risk of death. Knowledge that should not be confused with play.

References:
BMJ 2020; 371: m4381 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4381
BMJ 2020; 371: m4429 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4429
BMJ 2020; 371: m4284 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4284
BMJ 2001; 323: 1450-1 DOI: 10.1136 / bmj.323.7327.1450
Sci Eng Ethics (2015) 21: 1537-1549 DOI 10.1007 / s11948-014-9619-8
Discover 2010; 6: 227-236. DOI: 10.1016 / j.explore.2010.04.008
Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 285 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.285.6357.1792
https://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-authors/article-types/christmas-issue
https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/christmas-death-and-surgeons-birthdays
https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000368.pub3/full

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