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ARTICLE |

Skeptical of Skeptics

Thomas L. English, MD
JAMA. 1991;265(8):964. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460080032011.
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ABSTRACT

Skepticism permeates our profession. It is ingrained during medical training and reinforced by professional experience. Who among us has not repeatedly seen claims for fourth-generation drugs with no side effects, new operations that yield glowing results with minimal complications, or the latest infallible, high-tech diagnostic procedure... only to discover months or years later that these claims missed the truth by miles. Small wonder most of us are skeptics. To be skeptical is to be detached, rational, and objective. Skepticism is widely perceived as the prudent, conservative way to deal with ambiguous situations—times when even experts are confounded. Healthy skepticism is the "in" attitude for intelligent, discriminating physicians.

But healthy for whom?

Four years ago I was diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The experience has given me a new perspective of my profession, one that is not always flattering. In one early report, the average CFS patient had previously

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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