It started when somebody wrote a book review of the book by Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, “How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick In America.” In it, the reviewer wrote:
“Brawley isn’t an asshole, but he is a loudmouth, in the best possible sense. One of his favorite words is “shit”. He calls out colleagues cozying up to lobbyists and the pharmaceutical industry, naming cancer support groups whose funding comes from numerous drug companies and Kimberley Clark, manufacturer of Depends adult diapers. He spells out how for-profit medical centers drive up costs, then share the payout. That expense is not just dollars: it is pain, suffering, and untimely death.”
Despite that opening line, I think anyone who reads the review would find it flattering of Brawley, of his opinions, and of his book.
When David Sampson, director of Medical & Scientific Communications for the Cancer Society, saw that review, he tweeted, with sarcastic humor:
Something in that Tweet provoked a response from a biotech stock researcher on Twitter:
That, most clearly, was not a flattering comment. Then Dr. Brawley joined the Twitter exchange:
If you’re not on Twitter, you probably didn’t know anything about this exchange. You’re probably no worse off. But for those of us who spend (waste?) a lot of time on Twitter, it can be a bit depressing. At the same time, this social media avenue opens up a pathway for some to expose themselves for what they truly are – and perhaps we can all learn from that. Often, such non-evidence-based screeds arise around screening issues. It gives one some sense of how some people think. Read this post from just two months ago to get the full context behind this urologist’s Twitter blowup – which said, in essence, that a woman pediatrician trained in the evaluation of evidence couldn’t possibly evaluate evidence about prostate cancer because she’s a woman…and that a male primary care physician trained in the evaluation of evidence is “smug and self-congratulatory.” When you can’t debate the evidence, roll out the ad hominem attacks. It is not always a kinder and gentler universe on “social” media.
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