Wednesday, 11 July 2012

BAD Journalism Makes Science BAD

Babs Kay has her pearls in a death grip again. And gives us a dandy example of how journalists *cough* either deliberately or simply stupidly misread reports resulting in biased, agenda-driven (BAD) science info.

First she provides a link to a recent study that finds increased risks of psychiatric problems for children born prematurely, or pre-term birth (PTB).

Then, gripping those pearls, she goes on to SHRIEEEK that abortion is a MASSIVE risk factor for PTB and rattles off a scary bunch of numbers from a study 'proving' it.

Interestingly, she does not provide a link to that study.

But commenter KentsKorrections does provide a link then proceeds to take Babsy out behind the woodshed in two comments.

He -- rather patiently I thought -- points out the fatal flaw in the MASSIVE numbers she cites.
BTW Odds ratios are NOT a measure of risk but of effect size (sorry for Wiki but it was easier to find a simple explanation for the issue).
"Odds ratios have often been confused with relative risk in medical literature. For non-statisticians, the odds ratio is a difficult concept to comprehend, and it gives a more impressive figure for the effect.[13] However, most authors consider that the relative risk is readily understood.[14] In one study, members of a national disease foundation were actually 3.5 times more likely than nonmembers to have heard of a common treatment for that disease - but the odds ratio was 24 and the paper stated that members were ‘more than 20-fold more likely to have heard of’ the treatment.[15] A study of papers published in two journals reported that 26% of the articles that used an odds ratio interpreted it as a risk ratio.[16]

This may reflect the simple process of uncomprehending authors choosing the most impressive-looking and publishable figure.[14] But its use may in some cases be deliberately deceptive.[17] It has been suggested that the odds ratio should only be presented as a measure of effect size when the risk ratio can not be estimated directly.[18]"
I am 100% behind providing as much information as we can to patients no matter what the procedure as everyone should be made aware of the risks. However it should be CLINICALLY RELEVANT. This is why we have doctors and not journalists deciding what information is relevant to disclose.
Good to see more volunteers stepping up in the BAD Science Watch.

UPDATE: Another snarky and informative comment from the appropriately named smarterthanyou.
You would think a crack journalist like Kay might take the time to look at a real consent form for abortion before she writes about the subject.  These consent forms are often much more comprehensive than your typical hospital consent form for any other procedure, and give women way more information than they typically get if continuing a pregnancy. (Nobody ever told me that peeing and pooping could be problematic and post-natal psychosis could be in my future. But I digress.)  

Why does she not name the studies she claims definitively prove her claims?  Consent forms typically state that which is proven and accepted in the medical community as fact. Consent forms may even stretch a bit and mention possible risks when the jury is still out. But in service to the truth and accuracy is helping their patients assess risk, they don't jump on every bad science claim that comes along, unlike the brilliant Postmedia writers such as Kay, Jonathan Kay, Fr. de Souza, Margaret Sommerville, Naomi LaKritz and Susan Martinuk.These anti-choice writers love to exploit every possible claim that abortion will cause every bad thing that ever happens to you after without question. They never saw an anti-abortion study they didn't like. They never question why these claims are not supported by any major medical organization like the SOGC, CMA, Canadian Cancer Society, or Health Canada. Anti-abortion studies have become an industry. Any academic who starts spitting them out can get instant play from the likes of the above mention writers, who are eager to jump on any bad news about abortion that supports their belief that all women should be forced to continue all pregnancies all the time, because they think so.

ALSO: KentsKorrections says both at NP and here in comments that he (she?) tried to post an argument-destroying link that wasn't allowed.


Sixth Estate said...

I hoped I'd read this when I came here.

The other interesting thing to me is that Kay is (accidentally???) confusing rights with obligations. She starts by saying that people have a right to be informed of potential complications. She ends by saying people must listen to a recitation of these complications, presumably so that they will decide not to go through with the procedure.

It's worth noting the distinction given the increasing slippage on the same front to the south, where, to use Kay logic, I guess you'd say that some women are now being given the "right" to have a vaginal ultrasound done prior to an abortion.

Anonymous said...

The NP wouldn't allow my other post where I linked to the SOGC's guidelines on counselling patients where it states that the Dr must provide the patient with all the possible risks associated with the procedure, which destroys her point about this information being 'withheld'.

fern hill said...

Anonymous: Are you KentsKorrections?

Also SOGC = Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada?

Interesting about the NP not allowing another post, especially one that thoroughly debunks Kay's SHRIEK. Would they claim that their spam-filter wouldn't allow it?

Beijing York said...

Excellent points regarding consent forms. Shame on the NP blocking your link to real evidence, Anonymous. Not surprising given their penchant for carrying water for the anti-science Harpergoons.

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