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5-Star Friday: Assumptions

Many of the medical truths we hold to be self-evident are actually assumptions.

5-StarOur 5-Star selections this week are good examples. Many of us assume medical devices are rigorously tested before going to market. That bed rest keeps premature labor at bay. Or, that electronic medical records (EMRs) will make health care delivery more streamlined and efficient.

These articles stand as important reminders that excellent journalism and medical science share an important attribute: they challenge assumptions.

It’s 5-Star Friday … enjoy!


Gary Schwitzer | Founder & Publisher

A global investigation into medical device harm • by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Gary Schwitzer, Publisher

“The Implant Files is a globe-spanning investigation revealing a broken system that allows flawed medical devices to go onto the market — and into our bodies. Involving more than 250 reporters in 36 countries, ICIJ reporters and partners with hundreds of patients about the system’s pitfalls. There are countless medical implant success stories to celebrate. But the public is often the last to know about potentially dangerous malfunctions tied to implants.”

And it won’t end here.  The project promises to add to this resource whenever necessary.

The Columbia Journalism Review offered good background on the project.


Mary Chris Jaklevic | Editor & Reporter

Rethinking Bed Rest for Pregnancy • by Allison Kodjak • NPR

Mary Chris Jaklevic

Here’s an engaging account of the unintended harms of immobilizing pregnant women, told through the ordeal of a Milwaukee woman who was stuck on her couch for months. Meanwhile, her husband quit work to wait on her.

The couple said they struggled financially and felt “knocked out of society.” Yet as the story explained, there’s no evidence that this common practice averts negative outcomes such as premature labor. Meanwhile it poses harms such as weakened muscles and bones, blood clots, diminished lung capacity, and depression.

I like that it included the woman’s midwife, who said she’s aware of the evidence but still believes bed rest “let her get to term.” That contrasts with a bioethicist’s warning that the practice might encourage women to wrongly blame themselves when something goes wrong with a pregnancy.


Michael Joyce | Writer-Producer

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers • by Atul Gawande • The New Yorker

Michael Joyce

I have a friend who’s an internist in a remote town on the California coast. She’s responsible for taking care of about a thousand people, most of them elderly women. And she’s considering doing something drastic that’s anathema to her soul – quitting medicine. Why? “Computers,” she says.

She gives all the reasons Gawande’s internist friend gave him in this engaging read: longer days, less time with patients, intolerable inefficiency, and undeniable exhaustion.

Gawande offers us a very human and comprehensive glimpse into the digitalization of medicine that began with the promise of “greener, faster, and better” and has arguably morphed into a “massive monster of incomprehensiblity.”

But this isn’t your average jug of whine. Instead, Gawande gives us more: why a longer view of electronic medical records may be redeeming, what physician burnout really looks like, and why computers and medicine may be a match made in purgatory. There are many lessons here, including this one:

We ultimately need systems that make the right care simpler for both patients and professionals, not more complicated. And they must do so in ways that strengthen our human connections, instead of weakening them.

Coming soon to a hospital or clinic near you?

Soon? No. But coming? Let’s hope so – for all our sakes.


Please Note: These stories have not been subject to our rigorous, 10-criteria systematic review for accuracy, balance, and completeness. Rather, they represent pieces of health care journalism and opinion writing that members of our staff found compelling and wanted to share with others.

However, our reviewers did award 5 stars to this CNN story on an experimental treatment for peanut allergy sufferers, noting:

“This report is appropriately cautious, emphasizing that the treatment is not a cure but reduces the threat from accidental exposure. In addition, the story details the commitment that treatment requires and the side effects that can occur.”


5-Star Friday is a regular feature on HealthNewsReview.org. You can find a list of previous installments HERE.

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