Gaza,  Health Care,  Israel

The Lancet strikes again

Do any physicians still take the British medical journal the Lancet seriously as a source of reliable and unbiased information?

In 1998 the Lancet published the infamous paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield linking autism to the childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Twelve years later the journal finally got around to retracting it.

[Wakefield’s] assertion, now widely discredited, caused one of the biggest medical rows in a generation and led to a steep drop in vaccinations in the United States, Britain and other parts of Europe, prompting a rise in measles cases.

In 2006 a Lancet report extrapolated 650,000 deaths as a result of the US invasion of Iraq three years earlier– many times higher than other estimates. The study’s author later refused to supply “basic facts” for an inquiry into his work.

Now The Telegraph reports:

[A]ccording to senior British medical figures, the Lancet is being hijacked to campaign indefatigably against Israel, and used as a platform by alleged conspiracy theorists.

In August, it published a controversial “open letter for the people of Gaza” that condemned Israel in the strongest possible terms, but strikingly made no mention of Hamas’ atrocities.

The five principal authors of the letter made it clear that they had “no competing interests”. However, all of them have campaigned vociferously for the Palestinian cause over many years.

In addition, a cache of emails openly available in Google groups show that two of the authors, Dr Paola Manduca and Dr Swee Ang, have sympathies with the views of David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.
“It’s utterly irrelevant. It’s a smear campaign,” the editor of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, told the Daily Telegraph. “I don’t honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter. I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated.”

Dr Horton, who has in the past spoken at rallies organised by Stop The War Coalition, denied that the journal’s reputation would be damaged by giving a platform to people who appear to hold such views, and said that the Lancet is not intending to investigate the allegations.
“For many years, the Lancet has been consistently using its reputation to attack Israel,” says Professor David Katz, an expert in infection and immunity at University College London.

“The Lancet is supposed to be a politically neutral medical journal. The fact that they have given proven anti-Semites a platform and not rescinded it, even when confronted with the evidence, is appalling.

“They have allowed their hatred of Israel to blind them to the norms of medical science and the pursuit of reason.”

All of this has happened under the editorship of Dr. Horton. I’m not a physician or a scientist, but I have no doubt that the Lancet also publishes plenty of important and valid research. So why does Horton insist on undercutting the credibility of that research by publishing nonsense?

How many public embarrassments is Dr. Horton allowed before whoever is in charge of hiring and firing decides that the Lancet’s reputation is worth salvaging?