Richard Smith, MD on How Most Doctors are Not Scientists

Richard Smith, MD on How Most Doctors are Not Scientists

Some doctors are scientists—just as some politicians are scientists—but most are not. As medical students they were filled full with information on biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and other sciences, but information does not a scientist make—otherwise, you could become a scientist by watching the Discovery channel. A scientist is somebody who constantly questions, generates falsifiable hypotheses, and collects data from well designed experiments—the kind of people who brush their teeth on only one side of their mouth to see whether brushing your teeth has any benefit. Most doctors follow familiar patterns and rules, often improvising around those rules. In their methods of working they are more like jazz musicians than scientists.

Questioning whether doctors are scientists may seem outrageous, but most doctors know that they are not scientists. I once asked a room of perhaps 150 medically trained educators which of them thought of themselves as scientists. About five put up their hands.

If doctors are not scientists then it seems odd to supply them, as medical journals do, with a steady stream of original scientific studies. Teachers and social workers are not sent original research. Nurses are sent some, but are they simply aping the illogical ways of doctors?

The inevitable consequence is that most readers of medical journals don’t read the original articles. They may scan the abstract, but it’s the rarest of beasts who reads an article from beginning to end, critically appraising it as he or she goes. Indeed, most doctors are incapable of critically appraising an article. They have never been trained to do so. Instead, they must accept the judgment of the editorial team and its peer reviewers—until one of the rare beasts writes in and points out that a study is scientifically nonsensical.

— Richard Smith, MD, editor in chief of The BMJ and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group from 1991 to 2004


Reference:

Smith R. Doctors are not scientists. The BMJ June 17, 2004; 328

6 Responses to "Richard Smith, MD on How Most Doctors are Not Scientists"

  1. Mary Turner   March 28, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    So very true ! Since my husband has had Prostate cancer he has become way more knowledgeable than most GPs on treatment. I am very much mpre knowledgeable than my GP on ototoxic drugs because I do read scientific journals.
    My doctor gets upset when I say I cannot take certsin drugs because I know they will make my tinnitus worse.
    It is a sad day when a chemical engineer and a nurse are morevinformed than their doctor !

    Reply
  2. Bob   March 29, 2019 at 6:49 am

    But many view them as gods….to their own detriment.

    Reply
  3. Diane   March 30, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I’m an RN. Are you aware that vaccines are NURSE orders in hospitals and nursing homes? We do NOT require MD orders and only a cursory consent without any true information. Most nurses aren’t even aware of contraindications for vaccines (I’ve seen cancer patients with orders for vaccination) and only an informed admitting nurse would know to hold it (or the next nurse coming in shift who receives the order). In addition, the way the information is presented is so poor, it tends to sound like, “it’s time for your flu shot.” In my practice, it sounds more like, “are you interested in this?” Or “this was ordered for you, did you want that?” Or even, “I’m gong to hold this because it really isn’t indicated in your case; you can follow up with your GP.” I can’t even work in pediatric clinics- I’d get fired.
    And yes, I refuse all vaccines as my right and I have never been fired. It’s all in the delivery and I refuse to back down, have even stated I will not take a job unless I can decline. I have had many confrontations and I could care less. Even had an infectious disease doc harass me and I confronted him as well. And my child will never be vaccinated in the state of WA. Take my philosophic exemption, I’ve got more up my sleeve. They can F off.
    Oh and one more thing- you’re all being tracked. Vaccinate or not- it’s part of your medical record. For the vaccinators they’ve got batch and lot numbers tagged to your file. Don’t start me on this one…it’s very sinister and something you all need to know.

    Reply
    • Carol Moore   April 4, 2019 at 6:04 pm

      Diane, I’m grateful for your insight as seen seen from the eyes of an RN. Very valuable. Thank you!

      Reply
    • Kathleen Dunbar   April 6, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Praise the Lord for an educated thinking NURSE! I also for many years subscribed to medical journals and am always reading both pros and cons of things…it is our responsibility to make informed choices not run along like a heard of sheep….thank you for being you.

      Reply
  4. Theresa   April 6, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Diane, thank you for confirming most everything I’ve read by physicians and nurses who stopped believing the lie of vaccines! Have you read, Rising from the Dead, by Suzanne Humphries, MD? I highly recommend it!!

    Reply

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