Sunday, 22 April 2012


There is an inherent bias in medicine whereby doctors tend to overestimate the benefits, and underestimate the harms, of their craft. I do not aim to correct this bias, as attempts to do this in the past have failed. This is because it is human nature to believe in what you do, to the extent that we tend to overestimate our own value.
My aim is to make the readers aware of this bias, so that next time they are sitting in a doctor's office and are asked to decide on whether or not to have surgery or some other procedure, they will think twice, and consider the possibility that the particular intervention on offer might not be as beneficial as advertised, and might have more risks than advertised.
Rather than have a general discussion about the problem, I will put the spotlight on areas where this bias occurs to provide specific examples. This is not because I do not wish to have the discussion, but because the format of blogs is more suited to a collection of examples, rather than a running commentary.


  1. I just discovered your blog today and am devouring it. I am teetering on the edge of hypochondria thanks, in part, due to a long journey down the rabbit hole to find and treat the cause of...apparently nothing but a minor difference in numbers. I hope to read more. It helps.

    1. Thanks,
      You made me re-read the introduction, which was interesting. I think I have changed my tack a little since I wrote that. I am now more ambitious in that I am not restricting myself to simply providing particular examples; I am more interested in looking at the reasons why we think that medicine is better than it actually is. And I do want to change the general attitude that all medicine is, by default, a force for good.

      I like the rabbit hole analogy. Once you are in there, that becomes your reality and it becomes difficult to realise that there is an alternative.