Study Reveals: Doctors Are Stupid


Writing in The New Yorker, physician Jerome Groopman muses on the fallibility of his fellow M.D.'s:

Students are still expected to assimilate large amounts of basic science and apply that knowledge as they are taught practical aspects of patient care. And young physicians still learn largely by observing more senior members of their field. ("See one, do one, teach one" remains a guiding maxim at medical schools.) This approach produces confident and able physicians. Yet the ideal it implies, of the doctor as a dispassionate and rational actor, is misguided. As Tversky and Kahneman and other cognitive psychologists have shown, when people are confronted with uncertainty—the situation of every doctor attempting to diagnose a patient—they are susceptible to unconscious emotions and personal biases, and are more likely to make cognitive errors.

Groopman seems to favor incorporating "an awareness of heuristics and their liabilities" into physician training, but he hasn't fully grokked the implications of his own ignorance. Experts of all kinds tend to be more prone to error than the average person expects them to be. Medicine isn't special here, but it matters more when the pros in question are gatekeepers. Patients don't just seek advice; they seek permission. Groopman's revelation–that doctors are in fact human–should at least call into question the shamanic authority they're invested with.

Whole thing here.