Richard Horton (editor)

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Richard Horton

Richard Horton, BSc, MB, FRCP, FMedSci, (born 29 December 1961) is the present editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal.

Education and career[edit]

Horton studied at Bristol Grammar School from 1969 to 1980 and at the University of Birmingham from 1980 to 1986, receiving his BSc (in physiology) in 1983, and qualifying in medicine in 1986. He completed his general medical training in Birmingham before moving to the liver unit at the Royal Free Hospital.

In 1990, he joined The Lancet as an assistant editor and moved to New York as North American editor in 1993. Two years later he returned to the UK to become Editor-in-Chief.

He has been a medical columnist for The Observer and writes for the Times Literary Supplement and New York Review of Books. His book about controversies in modern medicine, Second Opinion: Doctors, Diseases and Decisions in Modern Medicine, was published in 2003. (In the USA, it was published under the title Health Wars: On the Global Front Lines of Modern Medicine.)

In 2005 he was a member of the working party and subsequently wrote the report for the Royal College of Physicians' inquiry into the future of medical professionalism – "Doctors in Society" (2005). He also chaired the Royal College of Physicians' Working Party on Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry; co-chaired a World Health Organization (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group on Clinical Trials Registration; chaired the Board of the Health Metrics Network; sat on the External Reference Group for WHO's Research Strategy; and is an External Advisory Board Member for the WHO European Region.[1] Currently, he co-chairs the independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children' Health. He is also a Council member of both the Academy of Medical Sciences and the University of Birmingham.

He was the first President of the World Association of Medical Editors, and is a Past-President of the US Council of Science Editors (2005–06). He is an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University College London, and the University of Oslo. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and a Founder Fellow of the UK's Academy of Medical Sciences.[2] In 2012, he was elected to the US Institute of Medicine[citation needed].

In 2007, he received the Edinburgh Medal for professional achievements judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding of human health and wellbeing[citation needed]. In 2008, he was appointed a Senior Associate of The Nuffield Trust, a think tank for research and policy studies in health services[citation needed].


Peer review[edit]

The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.[3]


Regarding the role of HIV in AIDS, Horton wrote in the New York Review of Books that "The central role of HIV in the development of immunodeficiency is, in my view, established by the force of epidemiological and laboratory evidence. On this key issue, Duesberg is, I believe, in error," but "Duesberg has predicted, correctly, that the virus alone is not enough to explain all aspects of the immunodeficiency process."[4][5]


At the Time to Go Demo of 23 September 2006, Horton accused American president George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair of "lies" and "killing children" in Iraq. On 11 October, The Lancet published new estimates of the death toll of Iraqi citizens after the US-led invasion in 2003, putting it at a total of 655,000. Some supporters of the invasion of Iraq dismissed it for what they claimed was flawed methodology.[6][7][8] Some opponents of the invasion questioned its reliability due to its extreme divergence from other data on the conflict.[9] Some journals and statistical experts were supportive. Other experts in the field were not convinced, saying the estimates were "high, and probably way too high",[10] and that the authors had published a "misinterpretation of their own figures".[11] Others were incredulous that the survey could have been performed as reported under such dangerous conditions.[12][13]

Iraq's health minister estimated during a press conference in November 2006 that between 100,000 and 150,000 people had died since the invasion in 2003, based on an estimate of around 100 deaths per day brought to morgues and hospitals during 2006,[14] while saying that the Lancet estimates were an "exaggerated number".[15]

U.S. President George W. Bush was asked at a 2005 press conference to estimate the number of "civilians, military, police, insurgents (and) translators" that had been killed in Iraq[16] and gave a number of 30,000 deaths, but the White House declined to provide a source for that estimate.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "About the Lancet". The Lancet. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Horton, Richard (2000). "Genetically modified food: consternation, confusion, and crack-up". MJA 172 (4): 148–9. PMID 10772580. 
  4. ^ "'The AIDS Heresy': An Exchange". New York Review of Books. 8 August 1996. Retrieved 2010-04-08. 
  5. ^ "'The AIDS Heresy': Another Exchange". New York Review of Books. 19 September 1996. Retrieved 2010-04-08. 
  6. ^ Reynolds, Paul (12 October 2006). "Huge gaps in Iraq death estimates". BBC News. 
  7. ^ "Critics attack huge Iraqi casualty figures". Radio Netherlands. 12 October 2006. 
  8. ^ Russell, Ben (13 October 2006). "'Lancet' back at centre of controversy". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  9. ^ Iraq Body Count Press Release 14 (16 Oct 2006) :: Iraq Body Count
  10. ^ "Is Iraq's Civilian Death Toll 'Horrible' -- Or Worse?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  11. ^ Taipei Times - archives
  12. ^ "Iraqi death toll withstands scrutiny". Nature. 19 October 2006. 
  13. ^ "Iraqi Death Estimates Called Too High; Methods Faulted". Science. 20 October 2006. 
  14. ^ "Iraq issues controversial death toll". Financial Times. 10 November 2006. 
  15. ^ Iraqi health minister estimates as many as 150,000 Iraqis killed by insurgents - iht,europe,Austria Iraqis Killed - Europe - International Herald Tribune
  16. ^ Dorell, Oren (12 December 2005). "Bush: 30,000 Iraqis dead". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 

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