Sherry Leonard's opinion piece (The Scientist, Aug. 31, 1992, page 11) remarking on the need for a scientific "Consumer Reports" struck a resonant note. As president of ECRI (Emergency Care Research Institute), a nonprofit agency that evaluates medical equipment and publishes the results, much as Consumer Reports does for consumer products, I can well understand both the value of and the need for such a service.

Since 1971, we at ECRI have undertaken comparative evaluations and published recommendations for products ranging from hypodermic needles and rubber gloves to mammography systems and surgical lasers. Even if we began such a program, it would be impossible to sustain it. A "Consumer Reports" that relied exclusively on the tabulated opinions of users would be lacking critical, objective information that can come only through testing. Testing is expensive. Even if one did not have to pay for test samples, as does Consumer Reports, typical...

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