Medical journals adopt political bias and damage their own scientific reputation

On September 3, the medical journal The Lancet, the most cited in the field, published an editorial entitled “New beginnings for Latin America?”. In the text, the magazine says it is concerned about the narrowing of the dispute between Lula and Bolsonaro in the electoral polls. The magazine’s favoritism towards Lula is made clear: “Brazil needs urgent change”, says the publication, which features a photo of the candidate. Bolsonaro is described as “known for his volatility and indirect incitement to violence” and for his “disastrous handling of the Covid pandemic 19 and his disregard for the women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and the environment.”

In the editorial, Lancet is also complimentary of newly elected leftist presidents. elected in Latin America: if Lula’s predictions of victory are correct, Brazil “will join other Latin American countries where there is renewed hope for progressive social change”, as in Gustavo Petro’s Colombia and Gabriel Boric’s Chile , comments the magazine.

It is not the first time that the British medical journal has used its pages for politically biased messages. Complaints such as Norbert Gleicher, a professional at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, are published in the correspondence section of the magazine. In an October letter 2006, Gleicher says he was disappointed to read an editorial from August of that year about a health crisis in Lebanon. Instead of finding an exploration of the subject with proposed solutions, “I found myself exposed to opinionated political polemics of the worst sort, appropriate for a left-wing tabloid, not a medical journal with the reputation of the Lancet”, complained Gleicher.

The BMJ and NEJM cases

Another British medical journal, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), drew the attention of the British conservative newspaper The Telegraph for its politically biased performance in the pandemic. Over the past two years, editors have advocated more authoritarian government interventions to contain the new coronavirus, from the so-called “zero Covid” policy to the return of mandatory masks and lockdowns.

Particularly risky in bias political was the magazine’s decision to publish a series of articles by a group calling itself “parallel SAGE” — SAGE is the acronym for Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, a government body that guided the decisions of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. in the pandemic period. The original SAGE was criticized for excesses, especially for containing a subgroup that made psychological manipulation of the population to cause fear and adherence to the lockdown. But the “parallel SAGE” was not satisfied and wanted more government control over the population. As the Telegraph points out, one of the signs of political bias in the group is the overwhelming presence of opponents of Brexit, the referendum in which the British chose to leave the European Union in .

In addition, BMJ Editor-in-Chief Kamran Abbasi mentioned in an editorial of 31 of August the educational losses of British children during the pandemic, but did not attribute these losses to the closure measures. The article does not say what other response the UK should have given to the pandemic, but it does imply that the key was in the hands of the government, whose response “fell well short of its potential”.

The BMJ also published a scolding against itself in its pages. David EB Powell, a retired medical pathologist who says he has read the publication for 70 years, sent her a letter in November

in which he complains that “I have never seen the magazine take such a consistently biased political position as in recent years”. He mentions the magazine’s campaign of alarmism against Brexit and the mention of the conservative Christian stance of now Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the magazine’s pages as if it were something that disqualified her. The editors “have no idea the frustration of readers who turn to the journal as a source of up-to-date medical reporting,” concludes Powell ruefully, “only to find it gripped by a relentless partisan political agenda. There is no trace of balance.”

Another medical journal not afraid of showing political bias is New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), especially in the selection of articles published in its “Perspective” section. In January 2021, the section published an article that used “neutral language” with the term “latinx” (instead of Latin or Latin), which occurs 15 times. The focus of the article was Covid-15 among illegal immigrants from the United States. A poll by Politico the same year showed that only 2% of Latinos approve of the term “Latinx”, 21% prefer gender-respecting language grammatical (Latin or Latin) and an expressive majority of 68% say they prefer “Hispanic”. Despite this, the journal would be demanding the adoption of this language as a prerequisite for the publication of articles.

A month earlier, the NEJM published another contentious article that proposed to abandon the “assignment” of sex. to babies on birth certificates in the name of respect for transsexuals and intersex people, a tiny minority of the population for whom registration of natal and genital sex is still medically important. The magazine highlighted the article on Twitter, claiming that recording the sex on the birth certificate “does not offer any clinical use”.

Doctors resistance

For Francisco Cardoso, an infectious disease specialist and federal medical expert, “the major medical journals of today are all biased and dominated by the progressive narrative”. He thinks this is more blatant on Lancet than on others and has always been a problem for the BMJ, despite the latter being the subject of a silent ban from a post by social media moderation by challenge the progressive perspective on Covid vaccines-15.

The impact of political bias on magazines is “devastating,” in the doctor’s opinion, and it will take a long time for them to restore the confidence of their readership who have other political views. He thinks that bias was one of the main reasons for a hasty rejection of repositioning drugs to treat Covid-21 early in the pandemic, citing a NEJM article against early treatment that was later subject to 17 published corrections. “They became a means of propaganda for the industry that worked against repositioning”, he concludes.

Although almost every control measure in the pandemic has a complex scenario of causal factors and effects, and it is unlikely that any political group has all the right answers, authoritarian measures widely advocated by progressives such as the vaccination “passport,” mandatory masks, and lockdowns, especially involving school closures, all have had nefarious effects that are unlikely to survive scrutiny in the best cost-effectiveness analyses. benefit, as shown by the coverage of Gazeta do Povo. “Passports” as an attempt to implement mandatory vaccination were a false panacea that ignored side effects like myocarditis in male adolescents, mandatory masks were ineffective and caused discomfort and harm especially to children, and lockdowns caused enormous economic damage, including loss of life. goings The political bias present in prestigious medical journals contributes to delaying or blocking these conclusions.

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