Sunday, December 13, 2009

When science tells us what we don't want to hear

The reaction to the proposed change in mammogram guidelines (see, e.g., here if you've slept through it) is symptomatic of what's wrong with much of our medical system -- people want more of everything (tests, procedures, drugs), feeling that interventions protect them with a magical shield of Technology. In fact, every test risks a false positive or uncovering something that never would have been a problem; every procedure risks complications more serious than what's being treated; every prescription risks being needless or even harmful. But all we can see is that "wait and see" might mean that things get worse. Thus it can be hard to go along with evidence-based recommendations that argue that in many instances less is more. We need to learn to take scientific consensus as the "right" guideline, rather than hunches and instinctive insecurity, even if it means changing our mental model of good medical care.

(via a Medley tweet)

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