Kate Johnson's Medical Musings

Life through the eyes of a medical journalist

What IS Medical Ghostwriting? Don’t throw the Baby out with the Bathwater.

Published September 1, 2009 in the Op-Ed section of the Montreal Gazette

By Kate Johnson

Barbara Sherwin  and McGill University’s unfortunate tangle with pharmaceutical ghostwriting could deal a serious blow to the publication of sound, ethical research worldwide if the reaction is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As medical ethicist Margaret Somerville, also of McGill, has already pointed out, Sherwin’s mistake could have been made by any number of well-intentioned, busy researchers.

The “publish or perish” panic in medical academia has many brilliant researchers scrambling to churn out enough papers to justify their jobs. John Eden, another well-known researcher implicated in this ghostwriting scandal, recently admitted this to Seattle blogger William Heisel.

As a medical editor, I help researchers with their writing –  enabling them to communicate the results of their studies to the wider medical community.

This is not ghostwriting. Continue reading

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August 30, 2009 Posted by | Medical Writing | | 4 Comments

Swine Flu – Getting a Grassroots Grip

By Kate Johnson

As headlines flicker and experts bicker over the science, politics and economics of swine flu policies, let’s not forget that we, the populus are not helpless and defenseless against this threat.

While we wait for national and international action, perhaps the most significant weapon against swine flu is already in our hands. But using it effectively will require a group effort – a grassroots mentality that reaches beyond our normal comfort zone.

With back-to-school and the second wave of the swine flu both looming – on a collision course ahead of us – as a mother and a medical reporter, I am worried. Continue reading

August 25, 2009 Posted by | H1N1, Parenting | , , | Leave a comment

Caster Semenya: Sex and Gender – When the Twain Don’t Meet

By Kate Johnson

My heart goes out to Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African sprinter who just dashed the 800m world record only to have her self-identity rocked to its foundations by a worldwide question mark of her femaleness.images

There she is in the sports section of my newspaper – flat-chested, rippled abs and all – looking every bit a man.

The doubts have followed her most of her life, apparently. But she and her family have always dismissed them. “That’s the way God made her,” they have said. And Semenya herself has apparently lightheartedly offered to drop her pants to quell the rumours.

But jokes aside, this is now serious business.

A world record has been made, a gold medal awarded, and other women have been left her in dust. Complaints have been made, tests have been ordered, and the whole world waits voyeuristically for the news that will no doubt rock her world. Continue reading

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments