Wikipedia for medical advice? Experts warn of errors

IT MAY seem obvious but scientists are warning people to avoid using Wikipedia for medical advice after errors were found in nine out of 10 articles on serious conditions.

A US study compared Wikipedia articles with peer-reviewed medical information on lung cancer, depression, diabetes, coronary heart disease and other illnesses.

The report, published in the The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, concluded that patients were putting themselves at risk by using the website as an alternative to GP consultations and even medical students were being misled.

Wikipedia is the most popular site for general reference on the internet and contained more than 31 million articles in 285 languages in March, it said.

Although widespread inaccuracies, either accidental or deliberate, are well-known, it has become a popular source of healthcare information, with between 47 and 70 per cent of physicians and medical students admitting to using it as a reference.

Researchers suspected the actual figure may be higher because people surveyed were reluctant to admit using the site and said it "certainly has an influence" on medical decision-making. 


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