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From history of medicine section listserv.  Peg
----- Original Message -----
From: "Edward Morman" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "'caduceus'" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2001 10:49 AM
Subject: history of medicine collections and current medical errors


> Dear Colleagues:
>
> I am not one who seeks practical justification for medical history or for
> maintenance of historical collections, but it can never hurt to provide
such
> arguments to non-historian, non-librarian supervisors (such as medical
> school deans).  Therefore I want to bring to everyone's attention the
recent
> case of Ellen Roche, a 24-year-old lab technician at the Johns Hopkins
> Asthma Center, who volunteered as a research subject and died as a result.
> Ms. Roche had been in excellent health before the experiment.
>
> The experiment, which was to include ten subjects, involved inhalation of
a
> substance known as hexamethonium.  It was called off after Ms Roche was
> hospitalized with a cough and fever.
>
> The lead researcher had searched PubMed for articles on dangers associated
> with hexamethonium and had found none back to 1960, the earliest date for
> which MEDLINE is searchable.  He had not looked for earlier literature.
>
> In its article
(www.sunspot.net/news/health/bal-te.md.hopkins17July17.story)
> on the release of an internal report criticizing Hopkins's Institutional
> Review Board, today's Baltimore Sun also noted that an outside physician
> called the investigator and the IRB "foolish" and "lazy" for not having
> looked for earlier literature warning of lung damage caused by
> hexamethonium.  Apparently both Yahoo and Google provide access to the
> website of a French medical school that lists several such journal
articles
> published in the 1950s.
>
> I haven't check the French website, but my guess is that the full text is
> not available, and that access to paper or microfilm copies of the
articles
> in question would have been essential for a thorough literature search
> before embarking on the experiment.
>
> The point is, though, that Yahoo or Google may not have turned up
anything,
> and that a manual search of pre-1960 medical indexes should have
> supplemented any database search that turned up no evidence of a potential
> hazard.
>
> Ultimately it would be nice if all pre-1960 indexes were available online
> and if all  the medical literature were available in full text
> electronically.   This is not likely to happen.  And even if it did,
> microfilm or paper originals need to be kept, since - while it enhances
> access immeasurably - digitization does not insure indefinite
preservation.
>
> Interestingly, New York Times coverage of this story, in a report by Gina
> Kolata (www.nytimes.com/2001/07/17/health/policy/17RESE.html) makes no
> mention of the journal literature of the 1950s.
>
> Please make use of this report.  I also invite further comments on
CADUCEUS
> relating to the issues I raise here.
>
> Collegially,
> Ed Morman
>
> Edward T. Morman, MSLS, PhD
> College Librarian and Director,
> Francis C. Wood Institute for the History of Medicine
> The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
> 19 South 22nd Street
> Philadelphia PA 19103
>
> tel: 215.563.3737 ext. 265
> fax: 215.569.0356
>
> email: [log in to unmask]
> personal messages: [log in to unmask]
>
>