A while ago I wrote about evidence-based medicine, the discipline of relying on evidence when making treatment decisions. I wrote about its strengths, but also the risk of relying exclusively on evidence. Bottom line, as Mom always said, is "Use your HEAD, Rosebud." (Yes, she called me Rosebud at times like that.) For details see my earlier post.
I'm at conference in Boston right now, and I just saw a great spoof of this topic. In 2003, the highly respected BMJ (British Medical Journal) ran this article:
If you understand medical research you're already laughing. Others, consider this:
The punch line is that in a controlled trial, some people receive the treatment (a parachute) and some don't. In this case, they'd all then jump out of a plane. NOT bloody likely that you'd get many people to participate in that one. But, if we're being rigorous, no excuses! The "investigators" have no choice but to conclude that "the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials."
Objectives To determine whether parachutes are effective in preventing major trauma related to gravitational challenge.Design Systematic review of randomised controlled trials.
These are exactly the words used by the staunchest advocates of evidence-based medicine to put down treatments that have no such trials.
My conclusion: pay attention to your mother. Or mine. Think.
p.s. The investigators end with a recommendation that "the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine" ... participate in a trial of whether parachutes work.