Friday, August 4, 2023

Viral BS Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them Book Report

 General Overview 

Viral BS Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them written by Dr. Seema Yasmin explores a handful of medical myths which have circulated throughout society, affecting how people live their daily lives in a “post-truth” world. Dr. Seema Yasmin exposes the truth behind these ideas of pseudoscience, clarifying whether or not they are accurate from a medical standpoint. This book covers various ideas such as whether or not mothers should eat their baby’s placenta and the harm that could occur if done. Another chapter talks about suicide and if it is contagious. The way the media depicted these reports on suicide made individuals feel that this was a valid option, showing how specific language and portrayal in the media heavily effects people’s mindsets and decisions. 

The main purpose behind this novel is to bring awareness to the false information that is spread throughout social media and our everyday lives. Dr. Seema Yasmin wants us to ask questions and be more skeptical of the information we are fed. This allows society to double check these medical myths and pseudoscience and develop our own thoughts and decisions. 

Favorite Part 

One of my favorite parts of this book was Chapter 40, “Is it dangerous to go to the hospital in July?” because it sounded absurd but after reading, it made sense why this was even a question. There is a myth that says to avoid the hospital in July because this is when doctors who are just out of medical school are given bigger roles. Through research, it was found that there were different factors such as changes in the amount of hours trainees could work which affected this data (Seema Yasmin 216). But ultimately it was found that in July if a patient were high-risk, they faced the same risk of death at a teaching hospital than a nonteaching hospital. To compare, in any other month, this high-risk patient faced lower risks of dying in a teaching hospital than a nonteaching one. In July they are even. A lot of this is based on the idea that those in training do not have as much experience which affects their performance. 

This chapter closes out by saying “The July effect really refers to a patient’s perception of mistakes made by medical professionals as an influx of fresh faces floods the hospital” (Seema Yasmin 218). This statement reminded me of the different Heuristics we learned about in this course. This one would be considered a Confirmation Bias. Because these patients already believe that because these doctors are new, they are inexperienced, this means more mistakes will be made. Since this mindset is created, they will believe July is a bad time to be in the hospital. They will lean towards the information or data that proves their beliefs. I enjoyed this chapter because I thought it was so random and never realized this was a myth that people had. It is interesting to hear how these types of myths have a sense of control over people’s actions and decisions. 

Relation to Course 

Throughout this book, different ideas of pseudoscience and medical myths coincide with what we have been learning about in this course. The main thing that relates is the idea of questioning and continuing to be skeptical. In the last slide of the last powerpoint of Mass Delusions and Hysteria, it says “Practice critical thinking for a better life.” It also says to “slow down” and to “always question assumptions.” At the end of this novel, Dr. Seema Yasmin offers a list of 12 questions and bits of advice to help keep a clear mind and think critically. The importance of this has been covered in both this novel and our powerpoints which makes me think about how crucial it really is. In this course we talked a lot about how pseudoscience is fast thinking, with biases and fallacies while science is slow and critical thinking. This base information is what makes up this novel and the medical myths included. There is a need to think slowly and to not always believe what you hear. By doing this, society can clear out the misconceptions and misinformation which would benefit the progress in these medical areas. 


Here is the link to my presentation!


All of the myths discussed in this novel are timely and current. Some of them I have heard quite frequently such as whether birth control pills cause depression or if football in America causes cases of brain damage. If we look back a few years ago when the world was going through a pandemic, there were a lot of myths regarding where the virus came from, how it would affect humans and their health, long term effects, and the vaccine. Aside from these myths though, a specific one that was circulating was that the COVID-19 Vaccine caused infertility. According to the following article, it says, “Last December, a German epidemiologist said the COVID-19 vaccines might make women’s bodies reject a protein that’s connected to placenta, therefore making women infertile” (Henry Ford Health Staff, “Here’s Where”). This was found to be untrue. Seeing how quickly misinformation is spread shows how these medical myths take form and confuse everyone. If everyone stays skeptical and does not believe everything to read or hear, these misconceptions can be avoided. This could keep society safer and more at peace.

Works cited 

Dr. Seema Yasmin. Viral BS Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them. Johns Hopkins 

University Press, 2021.  

Henry Ford Health Staff. “Here’s Where That COVID-19 Vaccine Infertility Myth Came From - 

And Why It Is Not True.” Henry Ford Health, 23 April 2021, Accessed 4 

August 2023. 

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