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Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Basic Fact Checking

An interesting letter in the Straits Times forum today:


French creator of liposuction joins in

I REFER to Senior Writer Dr Andy Ho's article, 'Key issue is patient safety, not partisan interests' (March 26). Dr Ho attributes the invention of liposuction to Dr Giorgio Fischer, a gynaecologist in 1977, adding that if it were not for him, plastic surgeons would not have liposuction at their disposal. This is incorrect. I am the inventor of liposuction. I published my first paper in 1977.

Dr Giorgio Fischer invented a device called a planotome and his technique was called 'Fischer's method for re-section of excessive cellulites fat (riding breeches deformity)'. His procedure was in no way remotely similar to liposuction as we know it today.

Dr Fischer neither called his procedure liposuction nor did he claim to be its inventor. In the same year, 1977, I invented a device that created little trauma because there was no cutting involved.

I also introduced the concept of infiltrating the tissues with a solution beforehand to create a fluid disruption of the fat cells and called my technique 'liposuction''. This technique has gained widespread acceptance and is now a plastic surgeon's essential tool.

In France, we used to have no regulations as to which doctor could practise aesthetic surgery. This led to disaster. We reported more than 65 deaths from liposuction by non-plastic surgeons. Legislation was enacted last year to restrict liposuction to plastic surgeons as it is a technique unique to our training.

Dr Ho adds that 60 per cent of general practitioners and some anaesthetists, gynaecologists and kidney specialists perform some form of aesthetic medicine, as if there were nothing wrong with this. None of these doctors has aesthetic surgery and medicine as part of his core training and I would suggest that this should raise concerns for patient safety.

Yves Gerard Illouz
Associate Professor,
Department of Plastic Surgery, Saint Louis Hospital, Paris

Forum note: Prof Illouz also lists his credentials as an expert in the Paris Court of Appeal and as visiting professor of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons

A good science writer should be careful with the facts.

Nobody is an expert in everything; when unsure it's a good practice to check with the practitioners within the field.

If despite due precautions an error was inadvertently made, and when directly confronted with the facts like in the letter above, the writer should quickly apologise for the mistake and ideally provide an indication of how that error could have occurred.

To make a basic factual error (in fact a "Wikipedia-level" error) and remain silent about it, and to make unsupported assumptions and groundless insinuations, weakens the original article considerably and casts serious doubts on the credibility of the writer on the subject of interest.

Would you like to know more?

About the aesthetic medicine debate
Key issue is patient safety, not partisan interests (Original article by Dr. Andy Ho)
It's about protecting patients, not turf (Letter to ST forum by Dr. Colin Tham)

About liposuction
Wikipedia article on Liposuction
History of Liposuction


Anonymous said...

More and more MSM is getting their facts wrong.

Or the net is getting more and more adept at spotting their... ahem... mistakes.

FB Supporter

Lim Leng Hiong said...

I think the mainstream media are usually quite careful with their facts. This sort of mistake is not so common, at least I hope it's not.