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    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    The Slant: When I read the first sentence of the conclusion to this study last night:

    Many physicians do not consider themselves obligated to disclose information about or refer patients for legal but morally controversial medical procedures.

    I knew that this is how today's headlines would read:

    Doctors keep options from patients
    Many won't divulge treatment information for religious reasons

    A disturbing number of doctors do not feel obligated to tell patients about medical options they oppose morally, such as abortion and teen birth control, and believe they have no duty to refer people elsewhere for such treatments, researchers say.

    Both the study and the subsequent newspaper story belie the headline and the conclusion:

    On the basis of our results, we estimate that most physicians believe that it is ethically permissible for doctors to explain their moral objections to patients (63%). Most also believe that physicians are obligated to present all options (86%) and to refer the patient to another clinician who does not object to the requested procedure (71%). (Boldness mine)

    So how on earth did they justify scewing their conclusion to the opposite impression? Do researchers take classes in graduate school on how to get their papers recognized by the media? Let's face it, when the eyes read "many" the mind thinks "majority," and in all likelihood the authors knew that. If they had given their paper an honest concluding sentence it would have read "Most physicians consider themselves obligated to disclose information about or refer patients for legal but morally controversial medical procedures."

    But then, that wouldn't have gotten anyone's attention, would it?

    posted by Sydney on 2/08/2007 08:54:00 AM 5 comments


    Well said.

    By Blogger DrWes, at 12:51 PM  

    "Many" is one of those words that writers should avoid because it is more likely to confuse readers than to enlighten them. Still, if the 18% of docs who said they feel no obligation to refer patients to a doctor who will provide the controversial service is an accurate representation of the country's physicians well that adds up to "many," doesn it?

    I would write, "More than 1 in 8 doctors believes ..."

    By Blogger Kevin B. O'Reilly, at 2:17 PM  

    If you were standing in a room of 100 people and 18 people expressed a certain opinion, you would be hard pressed to call that "many."

    By Blogger sydney, at 2:28 PM  

    The news has to be bad news, or it's not news. I don't know why events are reported that way, but it certainly contributes to a sense of the world going to hell in a handbasket when it isn't.

    For example, when's the last time the media reported the Dow Jones hit another all-time high and the S & P 500 has fully recovered as well? In fact, because December 29 ended down from December 28, the headline was "Stocks end down in 2006!"

    By Anonymous danie, at 3:32 PM  

    18 percent is basically 1 in 5. When it comes to displaying basic ethics, i.e., giving a patient a full, honest overview of their options, 1 in 5 IS ``many.'' It doesn't say ``most'' -- which would be wrong -- but ``many.'' What if 1 in 5 Toyota Camry's had their breaks fail? Or 1 in 5 Happy Meals contained botulism? That's ``many.''

    By Blogger Tracy, at 4:25 PM  

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