Theodore Dalrymple, a doctor retired from practice, turned a critical eye upon a full year of the Journal, alert to dubious premises and to what is left unsaid. In False Positive, he demonstrates that many of the papers it publishes reach conclusions that are not only flawed, but obviously flawed. He exposes errors of reasoning and conspicuous omissions apparently undetected by the editors. In some cases, there is reason to suspect actual corruption.
When the Journal takes on social questions, its perspective is solidly politically correct. Practically no debate on social issues appears in the printed version, and highly debatable points of view go unchallenged. The Journal reads as if there were only one possible point of view, though the American medical profession (to say nothing of the extensive foreign readership) cannot possibly be in total agreement with the stances taken in its pages. It is thus more megaphone than sounding board.
There is indeed much in the New England Journal of Medicine that deserves praise and admiration. But this book should encourage the general reader to take a constructively critical view of medical news and to be wary of the latest medical doctrines.
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“False Positive examines the central paradox of modern medicine that while it must, by necessity, deal in reliable knowledge, it is nonetheless permeated by error generating numerous contradictory claims about the ubiquitous threats to health in our everyday lives and the value, or otherwise of the latest medical advances. Theodore Dalrymple's investigation of a year's worth of the most authoritative and influential of all medical journals may not seem the most beguiling of subjects but allows him to illuminate with great clarity and much wit how wishful thinking, the selective presentation of data, unacknowledged personal bias and the dead hand of political correctness can obscure and distort the truth. Forthright, thought provoking, and profound, this is the most revealing book on the current intellectual state of medicine one could hope for.”
James Le Fanu, author of The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine