Is the internet a reliable source?

There’s no question that the internet has become a thorn in the side for doctors. As happens occasionally on DM, patients can look up their symptoms and decide for themselves what their diagnosis is and then cause all sorts of problems for their doctor when his/her diagnosis is not the same. It’s really nice to be able to look up one’s prescription medicine or disease and learn about them, although the down side is that sometimes all that information is misleading and even contradictory. It’s also essential to know the source of the information because if the website is run by the pharmaceutical company that sells the meds or a group that has been formed to promote an agenda, the data quoted could be slanted or not as thorough as it ought to be. But let’s say you know the website is unbiased and qualified. There certainly are such sites on the internet and they are valuable resources. Therefore, it is possible for the internet to provide reliable help with a medical problem as long as it meets these criteria. More than that, I’m not sure there’s any totally reliable source of information. We can’t be certain that even scientific articles are accurate.

One case in point is the supposed cause and effect relationship between MMR vaccines and autism that is brought up in the show. Martin expresses the position almost all doctors have that there is no link between the vaccine and the development of autism in any children. Louisa voices the concern many parents had after hearing of this potential link. Parents are looking for some reason why their child became autistic and are an easy target for such studies. Where was this link first made? Why in the British medical journal The Lancet in 1998. The Lancet calls itself the “world’s leading medical journal” and was founded in 1823. We would think that such a renowned journal would be a reliable source, but the same journal retracted the original article twelve years later in 2010 after discovering that the researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, had used faulty data to support his conclusions. “In fact, as Britain’s General Medical Council ruled in January [2010], the children that Wakefield studied were carefully selected and some of Wakefield’s research was funded by lawyers acting for parents who were involved in lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. The council found Wake-field had acted unethically and had shown ‘callous disregard’ for the children in his study, upon whom invasive tests were performed.” This false report had very damaging results when parents decided not to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, and rubella and there was a large outbreak of measles in 2008 and 2009. Measles can be fatal.

Each year it seems that scientific medical studies that purport to show a well-proven connection between a disorder/disease and a medical treatment are reversed or modified by further testing. So, yes the internet can be an unreliable source, but it’s only more unreliable because of its easy access not necessarily because it’s so much worse than any other source. For me, the most important thing to do is check the origin of the website and ask a lot of questions. Never take any information as unimpeachable no matter where you find it.

I’ll get off my soapbox now!!

Originally posted 2013-12-19 03:10:37.

One thought on “Is the internet a reliable source?

  1. Linda

    I think the internet has been both good and bad. I like to be able to look up things but I am careful about what sites I trust. I know that doctors want to tear their hair out because of patients diagnosing themselves and demanding tests and treatments. I think people put too much trust in the internet at times.

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