Monday, May 28, 2012

British Medical Journals Play Politics

Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP: Editor-in-Chief, Israel Medical Association Journal, and Head, Department of Medicine B and Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Tel Hashomer, and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
Prof. Joshua Shemer MD: Associate Editor, Israel Medical Association Journal, and Gertner Institute for Health Policy Research, Tel Hashomer, and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
Prof Gad Keren MD FACC FESC: Associate Editor, Israel Medical Association Journal, and Head, Department of Cardiology, Sourasky Tel Aviv Medical Center, and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
Dr. Yoram Blachar MD: President, Israel Medical Association
Dr. Leonid A. Eidelman MD: Vice President, Israel Medical Association, and Head, Department of Anesthesiology, Rabin Medical Center
(Beilinson Campus), Petah Tikva, and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel Adv. Malke Borow JD: Director of the Division of Law and Policy, Israel Medical Association

As the fighting between Hamas terrorists and the Israeli army continues, so, too, does the battle launched in a different arena– the international press. Today, it is almost fashionable, intellectual, even "politically correct" to be anti-Israel. This phenomenon does not limit itself to the general media; it has spread to the pages of elite medical journals.
A quick review of Medline shows the trend beginning in earnest in the early to mid-1990s, and centered in the UK, although other countries are not exempt. Over the years, lead- ing British medical journals such as the BMJ, the Lancet and the Journal of the Royal College of Medicine have delighted in publishing political rhetoric disguised as medical articles. The articles have accused Israel and the Israel Medical Association (IMA) of a host of human rights abuses, including occupa- tion, torture and cold-blooded executions of civilians. At the same time, well-respected journals in other countries, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, did not have a single anti-Israel article that we were able to find.
The articles detailing human rights abuses seem to focus on Israel in an almost distorted fashion. The website Honest Reporting1 asked Dr. Simon Fishman, a physician, to research PubMed for citations in medical journals relating to victims of international conflicts, including Palestinians, as well as a whole range of genuine health care issues such
as the psychological effects of war on Rwandan, Bosnian and Darfurian children, HIV testing in Rwanda, and other studies that are not necessarily focused on death tolls from such conflicts. Using the casualty figures from a range of conflict zones as a simple judge of scale produced the fol- lowing results: 

Dr. Fishman concluded the following from his figures:
When Europeans kill Europeans (Bosnia), the BMJ allo-
cates one citation for every 2000 deaths.

When Africans kill Africans (Rwanda), the BMJ allocates
one citation for every 4000 deaths.

When Muslim Arabs kill Black Africans (Darfur), the
BMJ allocates one citation for every (minimum) 7000
Darfurians who are killed.

When Israelis, in the process of combating terrorists, kill
Palestinians, the BMJ allocates one citation for every 13
Palestinians killed (including terrorist combatants).

When Arab Muslims kill Kurds, the BMJ fails to give this
any attention whatsoever.2,3 

1 BMJ's Bad Medicine, articles/45884734/critiques/new/BMJs_Bad_Medicine.asp, accessed 19 March 2009.
2 The authors conducted an additional search for references to the conflict in Chechnya and found 41 references in PubMed and 17 in the BMJ (often in a laundry list of other conflicts). The number of casualties during the two wars varies wildly between 20,000 and 250,000.
3 Following the piece on, Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ, published a response in which she stated that the BMJ conducted their own search and found the following: "For Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Myanmar, 1–2% of relevant articles in PubMed had been published in the BMJ. For Palestine, Congo, and Somalia, the figure was 4–6%. For Darfur and Zimbabwe, the rates were 15.8% and 17.4%. Both sets of data are crude. We make no claim that they address the extreme complexities of the political or humanitarian situation in each region, nor do they reflect the number of civilian casualties in each case. 

Comment:  Amazing stats -yes? What do you make of such numbers, do you think their might be significant bias towards Israel?  If not, how can you possibly arrive at that conclusion or do you not believe in data based facts? 

In addition to the clear slant in the types of articles published in British medical journals, the "facts" of the articles are questionable. This was recently documented in an article posted on the website Lancet Global Health, entitled "The Wounds of Gaza." The article, removed from the site shortly after its publication because of "factual inaccuracies," was a piece of fiction at best and slander at worst.
The article/blog entry cited Israeli soldiers pulling women and children out of their homes and shooting them in cold blood, of "silent bombs" that vaporized every living thing in sight, and of 35,000 Egyptian prisoners of war allegedly executed by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. Even the greatest supporters of anti-Israel diatribe noted that "the factual inaccuracies may detract from the credibility of the rest of the article." In response, four leading Israeli physi- cians, including Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, editor-in-chief of IMAJ, Dr. Yoram Blachar, President of the IMA, Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel laureate in chemistry and Dr. Joshua Shemer, CEO of Maccabi Health Services, wrote a response, which follows that article.4 

The lack of proportion is evident also in the skewed report- ing of events in the region and their health effects. For eight years, residents of Sderot and the surrounding areas have been subjected to unceasing rocket fire. In addition to those injured and killed, a study by "Natal," the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, found that between 75 and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4–18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress and 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children have post- traumatic stress disorder.5 However, studies of these kinds do not make their way into the pages of the Lancet or the BMJ.

No comments: