A comment worth thinking about

I thought I’d pull this comment out (to Buying our Silence) and let a wider audience have a look. It’s from Matthew Holford and I think it sums up things very well.

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the detail of all this and not see the incongruities in the bigger picture.

“You’ve hit the nail on the head. We have GSK’s original position, which boils down to Seroxat being exceptionally valuable, which has been publicly modified in certain respects (admission of the risk of suicide in anybody under the age of 31, withdrawal symptoms, risk to unborn babies, etc etc). The original position is bolstered by a whole bunch of academics, at least some of whom, we’re reliably informed, didn’t write the articles that have their names on, and a bunch of patients, who swear that the drug has at least permitted them to gain some perspective, while they sorted themselves out. We also have the support of the DoH and regulators for this original view.

We also have a counterproposition, which comes from another bunch of academics, and a different bunch of patients, who argue that they’ve experienced some quite horrific side effects. We’re also starting to see some successful legal actions. And then we have all the failed trials. Above all, we have GSK’s own view of its drug.

Now, when this counterproposition is put to the DoH, the MHRA and GSK we get silence. And thus the status quo is maintained. In the absence of further input from these players, one is left to speculate. Something’s wrong. It must be wrong, because there is a group of people who have assigned to themselves the right to tell a bunch of other people what is true, and have determined not to entertain any alternative positions.

There is nothing particularly complex about this type of analysis. It’s a standard argumentative approach. It’s called dialectic: one takes two apparently opposed propositions, and rather than attempt to demonstrate the truth of one at the expense of the other, one assumes that neither is true, and by analysing the two one may arrive at the truth. However, for this approach to be successful, the advocates of both propositions must be prepared to engage.

What does it tell us, when one of the parties refuses to take part in a discussion? Nothing, or everything? Or some position in between the two? Well, as I wrote before, people go silent when their reality has been confounded: they need time to process the new data, in order to understand how to respond. When it comes , the response is usually an attempt to re-establish their position. That is, can they disprove the evidence that one has put before them?

This is why presenting their own incongruities to them is so valuable: they have to reject something that they have said, in order to proceed, or else somehow try to reconcile two apparently contradictory statements, in order to demonstrate the consistency of their position. Which they choose to reject tells one everything one needs to know about the type of person one is dealing with.”


2 Responses to “A comment worth thinking about”

  1. Matthew Holford Says:

    Of course, thus far, I’ve only received denials and evasion. Despite some apparent inconsistencies in its story, the MHRA has declined to concede that its systems are anything other than effective and robust. I guess that must be true, then.

    This story is starting to feel more and more like that concerning me and my ex-employer! There are some striking resemblances, anyway.


  2. Matthew Holford Says:

    Just for a laugh, I sent that first comment, above, to Pat Hewitt, with a few editions. I wonder which position she’ll reject?


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