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Credibility and Logic in Gregory Curfman’s “Diet Pills Redux”

1. Gregory D. Curfman’s piece “Diet Pills Redux” is an editorial; therefore, a reader must keep in mind that the content will focus on the author’s opinion(s) and perspective(s) about a particular situation. Having read Curfman’s piece, it does seem credible. The author is a physician, so his analysis of the situation can be reasonably assumed within his field of expertise, especially when one considers it is an editorial published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr.Curfman presents evidence for and against the use of fenfluramine and phentermine and seems concerned only with further exploration of a possible connection between the use of these drugs (separately or together) and heart disease (Curfman, 1997, passim).

2. Curfman begins his piece with a summary of an outbreak of pulmonary hypertension that took place in Western Europe that was linked to the use of an appetite-suppressant drug. He goes on to reveal a European outbreak thirty years later which connected the use of an anorectic drug with more cases of pulmonary hypertension.

Later, he discusses weighing the risks of using anorectic drugs against the individual’s need, and concludes that only those with no other recourse should be allowed to take the chance. Each of these is an example of logic without fallacy (Curfman, 1997, passim). There were fallacies in Curfman’s piece. To begin with, the events and studies he cited were missing control groups and assurances that exigent factors such as patient history had been taken into account. Technically, these might be construed as misleading statistics.

Because the numbers of persons negatively effected by these drugs was so low, the potential that much of his point is perhaps a non sequitur—specifically an argument built on a slippery slope does exist. His closing remark that “succumbing to the allure of diet pills as a quick fix for excess weight may be courting disaster” presents a significant logical problem: the implication that those who suffered a cardiac crisis in connection with the use of one or more of the involved drugs fall into the “quick fix” category—this is a hasty generalization (Curfman, 1997, passim).

The overall message in the piece was not that blame must be laid, nor was it a call to halt all availability of either drug, so coupled with this piece being an editorial, even fallacy did not necessarily weaken the strength of the article in my opinion as the point seemed merely to be to convince readers that there was more to be investigated. Based on what I read, I have to agree that further investigation is warranted and that consumers must be aware of the potential dangers listed by Curfman.

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