Despite acting with the best of intentions, health professionals have sometimes done more harm than good to the patients who have looked to them for help. Some of this suffering can be reduced by ensuring that fair tests are done to address uncertainties about the effects of treatments.
Over the past half century, health care has had a substantial impact on people’s chances of living longer and being free of serious health problems. It has been estimated that health care has been responsible for between a third and a half of the increase in life expectancy and an average of five additional years free of chronic health problems. Even so, the public could have obtained – and still could obtain – far better value for the very substantial resources its invests in research intended to improve health (www.researchwaste.net). Furthermore, some of the treatment disasters of the past could have been prevented, and others could be prevented in future.
Misleading claims about the effects of treatments are common, so all of us should understand how valid claims about the effects of treatments are made. Without this knowledge, we risk concluding that useless treatments are helpful, or that helpful treatments are useless. The James Lind Library has been created to improve general understanding of fair tests of treatments in health care, and how these have evolved over time.
The Explanatory Essays in The James Lind Library have been written to promote wider understanding of why fair tests of treatments are needed, and what they have come to consist of. You can access each essay by clicking on the relevant links below; or, if you want to download all of the essays so that they can be printed out together for reading off screen, click here.
The text in these essays may be copied and used for non-commercial purposes on condition that explicit acknowledgement is made to The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org).
Fair tests of treatments
1.0 Introduction to JLL Explanatory Essays (this page)