Saturday, August 11, 2012

The non-statistical significance of the anecdote

Compelling anecdotes - "It saved my life!" - can drive us so wildly astray. Rigorous research is the antidote, but it often doesn't feel like it has an even chance! Especially when it comes to screening and "preventive" medicine (conventional and complementary).

A wonderful book by Margaret McCartney is a great example of what we need so much: a combination of beautiful storytelling with reliable research. It charts the paths that lead to health care that does more harm than good - over-treating the (well-off) worried well while the (less well-to-do) sick wait. This is The Patient Paradox, where "clinics and waiting rooms are jammed with healthy people" but there's not enough care for the sick.

Margaret blogs here and tweets here.