Recent research suggests that a quarter of all the papers published in medical journals are either ‘plagiarised’ or simply ‘made up’.
Some observers seem surprised by this.
They shouldn’t be.
The paragraphs which follow were taken from my book The Health Scandal which caused quite a storm when it was published in 1988. (The book has recently been republished and is now available via the bookshop on this website):
`With enormous pressures on them to make discoveries and produce startling results a growing number of researchers are ‘cooking the books’ and ‘fiddling the figures’.
In my book Paper Doctors, published in 1976, I described two examples of doctors who had been found out. The first was Dr William Summerlin, who was hired by the Sloan Ketting Institute in New York at a salary of$40,000 a year to do work on the problems of transplanting skin and overcoming rejection problems. Summerlin seemed to have made a major breakthrough in this area but no other laboratory anywhere in the world was able to duplicate his excellent results. Then, under pressure, Summerlin admitted that he had cheated. He was supposed to have transplanted skin from black mice to white mice. In fact he had simply inked in the transplant sites with a black felt-tipped pen.
The second medical trickster was Dr J. P. Sedgwick, a GP working in London’s West End. Dr Sedgwick was offered £10 per card to fill in a number of trial cards showing the effects of a new hypotensive drug on the blood pressure of some of his patients. Dr Sedgwick filled in 100 cards and accepted £1,000 from the company concerned, Bayer. (See also page 34.)
Bayer became concerned when the cards were returned for not only were they still clean and unmarked but the blood-pressure figures (which all seemed to have been filled in at the same time) were identical on several sets of cards. The drug company eventually reported the doctor to the General Medical Council and in July 1975 Dr Sedgwick had the dubious distinction of being the first medical practitioner to be struck off for such unprofessional behaviour.
Since those early days of deceit, dishonesty among researchers has become sadly and regrettably all too commonplace and the journals are these days constantly reporting more and more instances of over-zealous researchers falsifying or inventing results.