A complete medical check-up

March 19, 1999

I would not wish to condone student hand-outs being factually incorrect and contradicting accepted wisdom. But I would advocate some caution before taking the moral high ground and criticising others.

It is not difficult to identify errors in textbooks or to criticise the interpretation of data in the scientific literature. Incorrect information appears in print for a variety of reasons. Humans are fallible, science is complex and attempts to simplify it to help understanding can distort the truth, and knowledge moves on.

While no effort should be spared to ensure that what appears in print should be accurate and reliable, it is equally important that students learn not to have blind faith in everything that they read and hear. Indeed, education should cultivate a critical assessment of information and its sources in pursuit of greater knowledge.

Michael Pittilo Dean Faculty of health care sciences Kingston University and St George's Hospital Medical School London

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