Keep Bias Out of Medicine -Ahna S.

Throughout the second chapter of Rigor Mortis Richard Harris focusses on the effect personal and professional bias has on a study. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool”, (page 69), in this chapter Harris quotes famous physicist Richard Feynman. When conducting an experiment scientist face the constant pressure to always be right and a failure can cost their job or their career. Due to this pressure and all of the consequences of failing many biologists, doctors, scientists, and technicians will make conscious or subconscious errors when running trials such as misreading lab results, picking and choosing patients when running a clinical trial, or failing to mention serious side effects that accompany a new drug.


Some scientists deny any wrongdoing and will skimp out the extra test to save resources and time but others conduct every experiment they can to make sure that their product is as trustworthy and safe as possible. “I would rather show that I’m wrong than have someone else show that I’m wrong”, Carol Greider said after she had performed extensive tests for over a year on her experiment which led to the discovery of telomerase. Her experiment has held up to everyone who has tried to disprove it and she was awarded a Nobel Prize for her diligence and strategy.


One the most common incidences of doctor interference in experiments is the failure to report bias. For example male mice are almost always preferred in experiments because of reproduction cycles and hormone changes that go along with experiments on female animals. Although they are not preferred female test subjects have only bettered science. When female test animals began being experimented on for multiple sclerosis it was discovered that there are many biological differences between the male and female body and how it reacts to disease and made multiple sclerosis treatment more specified depending on the gender of the human patient. And although the hormonal changes female mice go through can make conducting exact measurements in an experiment more challenging female humans go through hormonal changes as well and all drugs must be safe enough for menstruating women to use thus accurate testing is a must.


Thank you for reading, Ahna S.


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