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We need to take a fresh look at medical research
  1. John David Simnett
  1. Lecturer in experimental pathology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

    `Most applied scientists are unaware of the significance to society of the tasks they perform' (I)


    Every human being has a vast store of knowledge about health and sickness and the ability to draw conclusions on the basis of this knowledge. Yet science research continues to be based largely on `objective studies' conducted by academics and to look down on `subjective' studies.

    The belief that `pure' objective science is highest and subjective information is lowest, inculcated by the way science is taught in schools, deters doctors from communicating information based on personal experience lest it be decried - as it certainly will be - as scientifically worthless.

    Alternative medicine with its open, flexible approach to the whole person, has something to teach conventional medicine. And doctors must pay more attention to what their patients can tell them. There is no rational justification for accepting the factual information that people give (in a case history) while disregarding what they have to say about their condition.

    Old-style science is particularly inept in helping doctors deal with psychosomatic problems. What is needed is a new `science of the subjective' which would be truly appropriate to the subject of study, the whole human being.

    There is a commentary on this paper by Sir Douglas Black, President of the Royal College of Physicians.

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    `Most applied scientists are unaware of the significance to society of the tasks they perform' (I)