James I. Ausman
  1. Editor-in-Chief, 69844 Highway 111 Suite C, Rancho Mirage, California, USA

Correspondence Address:
James I. Ausman
Editor-in-Chief, 69844 Highway 111 Suite C, Rancho Mirage, California, USA


Copyright: © 2014 Ausman IJ. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

How to cite this article: Ausman JI. How do you know what you read or hear is the truth?. Surg Neurol Int 10-Sep-2014;5:132

How to cite this URL: Ausman JI. How do you know what you read or hear is the truth?. Surg Neurol Int 10-Sep-2014;5:132. Available from:

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When I visited a Mediterranean country some years ago, a young but competent neurosurgeon told me that he had done a procedure nine times following what an expert had written and still had complications with it. It turned out that the author of the procedure had left out some key steps in the procedure that led to these problems. The neurosurgeon asked me, “How do I know when I am being told the truth?”

At one of the lectures I recently attended in another country, the surgeon, who was well known, stated that he had no complications and no mortality at 1 year from his surgery in a very difficult area of the brain to operate. I do not believe anyone who tells me that they have no complications or mortality. Neither should you. A search of the literature showed that he did have complications in a report he made of his surgeries. Why did he say what he did? What does that tell you about what you hear and read?

I also learned reliably that in China it is common now for neurosurgeons and doctors to falsify their data they report on their research. In fact, the doctors never even did the research in the laboratory but reported their results. I asked other scientists about this information and they noted that this practice in China was well known. Why? Is this a means to gain recognition and fame and increase one's position? Is this the price of success in a political system that has gone wrong? This is an alarming piece of information.

So, what is the answer to the young neurosurgeon who asked me the question about how one can know what is true. My answer which I gave at a recent meeting in South America is that each neurosurgeon gains experience every day, sees patients with problems, and makes decisions on what to do. It is the same thing that people who write textbooks and papers do. So, do not discard your own experience in favor of someone you do not know, or who is an “expert.” Continue to use your judgment in evaluating what you hear with an open mind. When I read a paper, I ask myself what are the authors trying to prove and then how would I answer their question under ideal conditions. Then I judge what they say based on that comparison. It is the same with any lecturer. When you discuss problems with your colleagues, you can learn what the right thing to do is from an exchange of experience. Also, there are those who write and speak who you come to respect because of their credibility that they have established. Do not sacrifice your judgment and experience to others who have not proven themselves to be reliable.

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