Saturday, February 18, 2006

Surviving Brit Doctors

In my limited experience (mostly sports injuries) Brit doctors are fine, but now we know that one of their leaders is ignorant of basic statistics, it pays to be wary.

A doctor at the top of the Brit medical profession - a professor and consultant, who was knighted for "services to child health" has been found to be ignorant of statistical correlation.

He'd have been surprised that many cancers run in families, and that individuals and families often have quite different vulnerabilities from the general population.

As researchers pick apart the human genome and statisticians build better models of medical outcomes, it's becoming possible to figure out what combinations of diseases specific individuals are vulnerable to, and which medical interventions they'll react best to.

So here's a survival mechanism. If a Brit doctor tells you that you have certain chance of a particular medical outcome, ask him for the dependent variables and correlation coefficients. If he doesn't answer you coherently, head for the hills.