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Outspoken views met with media silence

05 June, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Richard Horton

THE splits among scientists over the government’s policies on Covid-19 is widening, as I noted last week.

But Richard Horton, the eminent and controversial editor of the medical journal The Lancet, who is known as a scientist who speaks his mind, went further than perhaps expected last week in an article in the Guardian – he accused the “scientific and medical establishment” of being “complicit” in their failure to criticise the government when they have been elected to “defend and advance the reputation of medicine and medical science”.

He criticised Dominic Cummings for abusing his authority and thought this “sad episode” showed the “regime had lost its moral compass” – and by regime he made it clear he meant the doctors and scientists “shoring up this dys­functional government”.

Among the establish­ment he had in his sights were the presidents of the Royal Colleges and the government’s experts who have almost become household names – Sir Patrick Vallance and the chief medical adviser to Whitehall, Chris Whitty.

The Royal Colleges, which benefit from the patronage of the royal family, hardly ever come into public scrutiny.

Horton couldn’t have been more scathing – but his outspoken views failed to attract the attention of a largely compliant media. Scientists, like any other community of prof­essionals, have different points of view, certainly on untested research.

Why cannot there be more of a public debate about them?

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