Putting medical research on-line to give patients the information they need

A woman who carried out her own research through scores of medical journals to find out what was causing her infertility and repeated miscarriages will next week tell some of the world's leading scientists, publishers and librarians why medical research information should be made freely available on the internet.

After the birth of her eldest son, Jean-Hoffman Anuta, from Maryland, USA, suffered six miscarriages and then became unable to conceive. Jean decided to search the latest medical research in this particular field to find out more about her condition and to see what research was being done that might help. "Reading the latest medical research information gave me the confidence and knowledge to understand my condition," says Jean, "I learned what information was important to tell my doctor, and who the leading researchers in the fields of infertility and miscarriage were. Ultimately this lead to a cure."

Jean's access to publicly available research articles again proved vital in saving the life of her second son as her pregnancy hit complications at 8 weeks and again at 20 weeks. Further research and the resulting treatment with steroids, while being restricted to bed rest helped prepare the fetus for premature delivery (via emergency cesarean section) at 32 weeks.

Jean used Medline, the US Government's National Institutes for Health (NIH) abstract archive, to locate the research articles that were relevant to her disorders. The research articles then had to be obtained through libraries and, on the few occasions when they are available, on the Internet. By learning the terminology necessary to search the Medline archives, Jean was able to compile information from the world's leading authorities in her field of interest.

Last year, Dr Harold Varmus, then Director of the NIH proposed the creation of a complete on-line archive for all medical and biological research that would give free of charge access to the latest medical research. T

Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
BioMed Central

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