TOPIC: ARGUMENT51 - The following appeared in a medical newsletter.
"Doctors have long suspected that secondary infections may keep some patients from healing quickly after severe muscle strain. This hypothesis has now been proved by preliminary results of a study of two groups of patients. The first group of patients, all being treated for muscle injuries by Dr. Newland, a doctor who specializes in sports medicine, took antibiotics regularly throughout their treatment. Their recuperation time was, on average, 40 percent quicker than typically expected. Patients in the second group, all being treated by Dr. Alton, a general physician, were given sugar pills, although the patients believed they were taking antibiotics. Their average recuperation time was not significantly reduced. Therefore, all patients who are diagnosed with muscle strain would be well advised to take antibiotics as part of their treatment."
WORDS: 309 TIME: 00:30:00
An experiment has been carried out in order to test the hypothesis that secondary infection delayed the healing of muscle strain. However, there are several obvious fallacies in the newsletter that can't be ignored.
First of all, the author didn't fully present the possible associated disease surrounding muscle strain. In the newsletter, only one possibility has been raised which is secondary infection while there may be other possibilities. To further strenghten the argument, a pillot test/experiment to exclude possibilities other than secondary infection may be very helpful.
Secondly, it is unfair and not convincing to have two different doctors for the test group and the control group respectively. To make the result more suspicious is that the profile of these two doctors are very different as one is established in sports medicine and the other is a nearly unknown general physician. It is quite reasonable for readers to question the experiment as this difference will directly lead to the conclusion that the 40% difference has been caused by the difference of the competence of the two doctors.
Thirdly, granted that these two doctors practice the same theraputic treatment to the patients from these two groups, the statistics of all the patients are unknowned. The patients may vary in the muscle strain, the location of the muscles, the scale of the area of the strain, etc. However, the most important thing is that it is not know if they all have secondary infections and the infections can be treated by antibiotics.
In sum, the short letter can't justify the hypothesis. Further information should be supplied so that the experiement can be considered as convincing: 1) there's no other factors other than the secondary infections, 2) both of the groups received same treatments apart from the differents in the antibiotics and 3) both of the groups share similar profile in muscle strain.