Tag Archives: Evidence-based medicine

Small study, big news

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a medical journalist, it’s that the size of the study is no predictor of the splash it makes in the media. Last week I analysed two studies which were based on tiny, very specific populations. One added little to our state of knowledge, the other was a scientifically […]


The ethics of Ebola

On Tuesday I phoned in for the WHO press conference about the ethics of allowing experimental treatments to be used in the current, out-of-control outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa. (My report for the BMJ is here.) The situation feels like the plot of a¬†movie. A deadly, infectious disease with no known cure. Healthcare […]

E-cigarettes: friend or foe?

I’ve spent the past week immersed in the literature about e-cigarettes. The debate is amazingly polarised, from those who fear e-cigarettes will perpetuate the tobacco epidemic to those who think they could save millions of lives. There is no doubt that smoking tobacco is hugely harmful and e-cigarettes are considerably less toxic to human health. […]

The confidence trick of cosmetic surgery

I’m a troubled old feminist these days. Back in the ice age, when I read my first ¬†Germaine Greer and chucked out Just 17 in favour of Spare Rib, cosmetic surgery was pretty straightforward. It was something you did if you were (a) horribly disfigured or (b) rich and vain. Now it’s apparently a rite […]

Random acts of brilliance

How do we find out what works? Not just in medicine, although that’s my usual field, but in life, for most people, most of the time. The short, sciencey answer is to run an experiment to find out. So, for example, if we want to know whether TV makes people happy, we might do an […]