Monday, 20 April 2009

The difference between opinion and thought

This opinion piece by Melanie Reid is staggering in its wilful embrace of ignorance. From start to finish it contains no thought, no facts, no argument, no sense; it does offer denial, knee-jerk prejudice, mindless populism and slavish, empty-headed traditionalism.

In summary: a Dutch study has recently shown that for pregnancies without complications, home births are no riskier than having the baby in hospital. Reid's response, in favour of hospital births, encompasses the following arguments points bald assertions.
  • Women who choose home births are weird. And principled. But mainly weird;
  • Home births are currently rare;
  • Therefore, they are wrong;
  • Yes, the Dutch study shows that they're just as safe;
  • The Dutch are in the minority, therefore they too are wrong;
  • In fact, Holland is not in the real world;
  • It doesn't matter that home births are safe;
  • Hospitals are the bestest of all best places, and anyone not using one is delusional and hates women.
Had she merely stuck to writing these assertions out one after another and then pretending she'd formulated an argument, Reid would merely have come across as regrettably stupid. Happily, however, she chose to try and buttress her opinion with some reference to facts; in this case the complications attached to birth. This is where it would have helped enormously to do a minimum of research. Presented as evidence on her side is the history of deaths from puerperal fever. As you can see, even the most cursory research would have given Reid the following information:

  • The single most important risk factor for puerperal fever nowadays is Caesarean section;
  • Puerperal fever was, at its lethal peak, spread by doctors working in the new lying-in hospitals of the day;
  • Conversely, puerperal fever was rarer in home births than it was in hospitals.

It's one thing to write an opinion piece without ever formulating an argument; standard practice, almost. But getting such facts as you present so completely arse about face is just wallowing in ignorance for it's own sake, and reflects the fundamental weakness in paying columnists by the word instead of by the thought.

    No comments: