Medical (mis) information

If you haven't heard of Wikipedia yet, you will. It's an online encyclopedia with the idea that users will contribute the information and the online community will police itself with millions of potential editors to correct percieved inacuracies in the entries. It's the same philosophy of shareware software groups and the LINUX developer communities that contribute and modify software code.

This "group" model has been astoundingly succesful in software applications, with essentially free operating systems running many Fortune 500 companies' servers.

Well, check out Wikipedia's entries on medical topics and you see the potential for chaos when anyone with an agenda can unrelentingly control the content. Recently I added a good bit of content to the breast implant entry which was essentially neutral point-of-view and summarized the tort-insanity of the early 1990's silicone "crisis" as well as the numerous studies which failed to link gel implants to many of the auto-immune phenomena claimed in the lawsuits. Immeadiately this attracted the attention of a militant anti-silicone crusader who proceded to turn the topic into an unrecognizable distortion of the consensus data.

The following were quotes from this anonymous editor in the comments section:

"I know that my ruptured silicone implants nearly killed me"

"I must say that you are correct when you suggest that I am suspicious of doctors. I am particularly suspicious of plastic surgeons who benefit financially by the approval of silicone implants"

"This 'neutral' editing does a disservice to any article about silicone breast implants and the women who are interested in these issues"

"My personal opinion is that an FDA of this White House administration is more likely to approve silicone implants than a different FDA. Bush has not shown he is interested in consumer safety."

Does that sound like someone qualified to chime in on this topic in a neutral point of-view position? Surveying other controversial topics like Vaccines and alleged autism links, you see a great deal of partisan activist treatment of these topics.

Bottom line: medical information on unedited (professionally) sites should be viewed skeptically. That goes for my writing too BTW.

Rob Oliver Jr. MD


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