Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Quote of the day

“ Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

Xenophon (431BC-350BC)

“ Accuracy of statement is one of the first elements of truth; inaccuracy is a near kin to falsehood”

Tryon Edwards

Report claims home birthers at greater risk if transferred to hospital

Sometimes one wonders at what otherwise presumably professional people do with statistics.

Researchers writing in the journal British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) examined all home births over a decade.

They apparently feel the study indicates there could be ‘serious risks’ for the baby when mothers who chose a home birth are transferred to hospital.

The implication being that home birth is the problem aspect.

The problem is the data is self selecting. They are examining births that have to be transferred to hospital because they have got into trouble serious enough to require it. Also they are not really comparing like for like.

As it stands the particular conclusion mentioned above can really amount to little more than a pointer to a possible direction for further research. Something as easily arrived at by educated logic. It is largely useless - and it needn’t have been, if those conducting it had planned more carefully and harvested the right data. One fears to some extent it is time and money not used to the best advantage it could have been.

Only around 15% of home birthers actually have problems that require they transfer to hospital, for second time mothers the risk is lower.

A valid comparison would have been to look at how women who elected to give birth in hospital, with no contra indications prior to giving birth, fared against women who elected to give birth at home with, no prior contra indications, fared.

One might expect to see that the possible wait and journey to hospital might disadvantage home birthers who got into trouble, compared to Hospital birthers who similarly got into trouble - but it is possible this could be offset by other factors, such as the risk posed by antibiotic resistant infections and other infections present in hospitals, or possible closer individual attention during the initial stages.

Whilst the actual report is more balanced, the BBC headline is dubious in that it baldly states “Home birth to ward increases risk”. It is actually misleading as this is by no means proven, or evident, even from the report. An accurate headline might have prefaced it with “Report claims”.

Amnesty say Olympics are actually making things worse in China

One hears much guff that engaging the Chinese Government over the Olympic Games. There has been much talk about the possibility that the presence of western media (around 20,000 reporters) might help improve China’s human rights record.

It was not a good sign when British authorities, apparently colluding with Chinese oppression, decided to force UK athletes to sign a gag order, preventing them criticising the Chinese government, before they will allow them to attend the games. Why they felt it necessary to do this when other countries did not remains open to question.

Now it seems this may not necessarily result in an improvement after all. According to Amnesty International it is in fact making things worse.

Clearly the Chinese authorities see the prospect of any dissent as an embarrassment and are ruthlessly pre-emptively suppressing anything, or any one, that has the potential to flair up in front of the western media before they get there in numbers.

One only has to look at how they ejected reporters from Tibet and manipulated reports and figures. down playing the number of Tibetans killed by a factor of 10 or more. Or the vast numbers of troops they have sent into the country to suppress the native population.