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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Of COURSE I'm as smart as a doctor!

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: He said/He said.

I'm sure you've seen newspaper or magazine pages with one opinion on the left side and an opposing opinion on the other side. They are intended to provide well-rounded coverage of an issue, and generally, the people who write the columns have roughly equal amounts of relevant experience or education. They are able to give the reader some insight into the thought processes on both sides of the argument. This is a valuable public service that contributes to democracy.

Name of Paper Withheld, on the other hand, is above all of that. They are desperate to cover the bike-helmet issue, and fortunately for them, they have two people who are willing to provide opposing viewpoints on the topic.

Dr. Alex Hoecshmann has been working in our emergency room for three years. He believes that helmet legislation is essential. On the other hand, the paper's former editor believes it is "silly political grandstanding".

This is so ridiculous that I almost wonder if the former editor has fallen out of the current editor's good books somehow. It seems like a journalistic "fuck you", but I'm not sure that the current editor is able to come up with anything quite this clever.

In any case, we are treated to he says/he says couplets like this:

EDITOR: When pressed to defend their arguments, proponents of mandatory bicycle helmet laws will compare egg crates to seat belts, but there are no crash test dummies to support that analogy. At best, limited statistical analysis in jurisdictions where helmets are mandatory suggest there are fewer head injuries to cyclists, but that’s far from conclusive evidence.

DOCTOR: Any decision on this should be based on facts, not on personal opinion. Cycling is the leading cause of head injury in children, accounting for thousands of hospital visits a year in Canada. Half of all cycling related deaths are due to serious head injuries. However, a proper bicycle helmet can lower the risk of serious brain injury by almost 90 per cent. This means that people riding bicycles without helmets are potentially 10 times as likely to end up in a coma or in a persistent vegetative state should they get into an accident.

EDITOR: I haven’t heard of any epidemic of head injuries or deaths among cyclists in [name of town withheld], but that’s no proof that such a plague isn’t lurking over the horizon.

DOCTOR: Since starting my work here as an ER doctor three years ago, I have seen far too many people brought to Emergency with head injuries that would not have happened if they had a helmet. Some of these people have been changed for life, and a few of them are dead.

EDITOR: Learning how to control a bicycle is a lot like defensive driving. Seat belts and air bags will reduce injury, but the best strategy is to correct bad driving habits.

DOCTOR: Many organizations, including the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and provincial medical Associations, have come out in support of mandatory helmet legislation. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that
each province or territory adopt mandatory helmet legislation for all ages because it works.

Does this look like a mean joke to you? Or do the people at Name of Paper Withheld think this is contributing to readers' understanding of the issue?

I'm almost afraid of the answer.