British Medical Association Misled by Ontario Study

      Ontario children's helmet law was not enforced legislation - in an eResponse to the journal Injury Prevention, researcher Malcolm Wardlaw emphasised that timely presentation of evidence is vital. He was criticising a paper published by Injury Prevention in 2001. This paper reported that the 1995 helmet legislation for Ontario children had not reduced cycle use, yet the authors failed to mention the law was never enforced. The law was forgotten about within a few years as helmet use fell back to pre-law levels. This much became clear in 2006 when the same authors published a fuller set of results in Injury Prevention. As Wardlaw pointed out, the British Medical Association has cited the 2001 paper as its principal evidence that enforced helmet laws do not suppress cycling (ignoring a great range of evidence from elsewhere to the contrary). In effect, a helmet law could be introduced in the UK on the basis of a single, incompletely reported paper.

      Wardlaw called upon authors Macpherson et al to write an open letter to the BMA to make clear that the 2001 paper referred to a law that was never enforced. It was thus not a model case for enforced legislation. However, the editor of IP responded with an editorial attacking opponents of helmet legislation. Wardlaw replied with a further eResponse that was refused by IP, but was accepted on the site of the British Medical Journal. Observers are thus at liberty to read it and judge for themselves whether it made a useful contribution to the debate.

      To date, Macpherson et al. have yet to write an open letter to the BMA, although they did finally admit in an eResponse to IP that the Ontario law was never enforced.

      (Note: All links accessed May 2008)

May 2008
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