Journal Mobile

S Justman
Journal Issue: 
Volume 47: Issue 4: 2017




Though James Lind is renowned as a pioneer of the clinical trial, he records the 1747 trial aboard the Salisbury in passing, never followed up on it, never campaigned for clinical trials as a means of medical discovery, and eventually pronounced scurvy an insoluble enigma. The case can be made that in confessing his lack of an unfailing remedy for scurvy and his trouble making sense of the disease’s behaviour, Lind did medicine a greater service than by conducting his now-famous trial. At the time, medical progress was hindered by the all-too-common practice of proclaiming success and concealing failure. With his ethos of candour Lind challenged this practice by example; he may have been among the first to do so. Within a few years of the publication of the third and final edition of his A Treatise of the Scurvy, medical tracts began to appear in which the authors (some of whom knew Lind’s treatise) took issue with the practice of concealing failure. A concerted attack on the suppression of evidence vivified the concept of evidence itself. Today, with the selective publication of findings distorting the medical literature, Lind’s story of admitted failure holds great meaning.