Trial By Error: My Questions For The Science Media Centre

David Tuller

 

By David Tuller, DrPH.

 

On September 20, 2017, a BMJ Publishing Group journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood published the SMILE trial. This trial investigated an intervention called the Lightning Process as a treatment for kids with CFS/ME (as the study called the disease). The lead investigator was Professor Esther Crawley, the University of Bristol pediatrician and a well-known researcher in the field. The trial’s full title: “Clinical and cost-effectiveness of the Lightning Process in addition to specialist medical care for paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome: randomised controlled trial.”

Not surprisingly, the Science Media Centre played a key role in presenting the SMILE trial findings to the news media, trotting out cautiously supportive statements from experts like Professor Dorothy Bishop, the well-known Oxford University developmental neuropsychologist. The folks at the SMC certainly viewed the trial quite differently than I did, not to mention the many patients, advocates, scientists and others who have criticized it. If the SMILE trial comes under greater scrutiny, as I suspect it might, the SMC could find itself under pressure to answer some tough questions.

 

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