Posts Tagged ‘bioethics’

Today is one of the most auspicious days in Indian traditional festive time. Saraswathi pooja, a celebration of the Goddess of knowledge and education. I would like to share one of the all-time great quotes on learning from Thiruvalluvar a sage poet who lived in the southern Indian state of (mine), Tamil Nadu in 4th -5th century BC  2500 years ago.

 This Thirukural number 391 in the chapter of education goes on like this. (In the Tamil Language)

In English

Karka, Kasadara, Karpavai , Katrapin,

Nirka , Atharkku Thaga !

It says

Karka : Learn

Kasadara: Here comes the punch. Kasadara means pure.  He says simple learning is not at all-sufficient. One has to learn from good sources, learn deep that should be devoid of errors, contaminations, and falsehoods.

Karpavai  : Thus you learn all lessons in life meticulously.

Katrapin:  So, after this hard and enlightened learning, what we should do?  He answers next.

Nirka Atharkku Thaga: This means , don’t just stop with learning, follow it with action in a righteous way. Unless we do that he warns to conclude ( in another poem in the same chapter) there is no purpose of learning itself and we are again at risk of becoming illiterates.

So, what does this Thirukural teach the Nobel professionals who follow cutting edge medical research?

I think I need not elaborate . . . Acquiring knowledge and true learning has become two different processes.

It’s just a sample of one kural (Quote) among 1330 poetic quotes written in 133 chapters by this great philosopher of Tamil Nadu who shared the same timeline with Aristotle and Socrates of ancient Greece 5000 miles west of India. For those ,If you are interested in his monumental work on literature which can be referred to as the manual for effective living  (I wish to call it as “Standard operating protocol”  for human life)  please follow the link.

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If science is considered as a journey towards truth,.. knowledge, data, and statistics are the key companions in this infinite voyage to an unknown destination. While hundreds & thousands of scientists do travel in this turbulent road daily, pursuing their mundane work, there are very few researchers worried about the true purpose of their journey, the quality of the road they travel, the dangerous fault lines they create.

It has become a taboo topic to criticize medical science even after realizing the fact that we are compelled to follow and glorify some of the best nonsense.

Dr. Jhon Loannidhis Professor of statistics and public health from Stanford University is of a different genre. He became so popular after his landmark paper

Loannidis JPA (2005) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med 2(8): e124.

His lectures are so important to us. Physicians need to listen to his talks, infested with absolute truths, unpalatable though.

Final message 

It is my wish there is a need for a new specialty called quality assessment of published medical literature and knowledge distillery. 


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Somehow the concept of  Evidence based medicine (EBM )never excited me in spite of great strides it has made. Probably the main reason for this is, EBMs origin, quality, and credibility is currently severely compromised. (Though It appears to ooze science 24/7 and make us believe in it too !) Herewith, sharing some of the forbidden thoughts(with lots of pun)  for a (un)successful practice of EBM. This is definitely not meant for young and novice medical professionals. Strictly for the ones who can segregate sense from non (S)

Evidence-based Doubting 



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                                                 It is now mandatory for all  journals  to declare the  conflict  of interest by the authors  who are involved in medical research .The purpose apparently is to make all transactions or links  between the researchers and their funding agencies transparent .Even major journals  do not go beyond this . Some ensure it , to appear in the first page of  the article.

 What does the the journals tend to  convey to the reader by publishing the conflicts of interest ?

  •  Does it  mean the article in question  may have a bias or indeed have a bias  ?  and readers are warned  hereby !
  •  Do they send across a message  that the  article may not be really a genuine one and the judgement is left to the the consumers of the articles ?

How often a journal article is rejected purely on the basis of  conflicts of interest ?

Most of  journal articles are rejected  for poor methodology, statistical analysis and so forth .We don’t know how often a paper is rejected  due to a conflict issue per se.If this could happen ,bulk  of drug trials would face a torrid time from the editors.

Why , even the leading scientific  journals never indulge in grading the significance of the conflict ?

Here is an example .



The much hyped drug trial on Hypertension “ACCOMPLISH”  was published in the  world’s most prestigious medical journal recently .It  left  it to the readers to  have their  own assessment  on the conflict issue.

  The consequence of not , grading and investigating  about the conflicts could have  serious  global health  implications both financially and academically .

This study was designed, formulated, completed and published  with a single hidden aim of neutralising the land mark trial  of ALLHAT which recommended diuretics as a first line drug in HT.Apparently diuretics are very  cheap  , effective  generic drugs.

 Is it a scientific rule  that  the  latest evidence  ,  should always prevail over the older evidence ?

No. Science can never have such a rule ! The question is how good and genuine is the evidence.
Just because an evidence is current , it does not  attain a scientific sanctity !

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