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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Treating patients on 'gut instinct'
Doctors examining an X-ray
More or Less
Monday, 11 June, 2007
BBC Radio 4, 1630 BST

On More or Less this week, there was a story of a doctor with a hunch.

Against all the probabilities, the doctor could not help a suspicion that his young patient had a deadly disease, which needed urgent and drastic treatment.

The disease he feared was the flesh-eating bug, necrotizing fasciitis. But that is rare and highly unlikely.

All the statistical probabilities would have indicated that the doctors should watch and wait. The doctor's gut instinct, as he put it, was to go.

In More or Less, presenter Andrew Dilnot asked if difficult decisions should allow gut instinct.

For the fact is, that doctors who go against the odds are usually wrong. So how far can numbers help us take decisions?

Child's play

We also looked at economic models.

They sound like something out of the children's TV show Trumpton. What are they really, and do they work?

Plus the statistical science that is now volcanology, where measuring everything that moves and looking for correlations is how we now go about predicting volcanic activity. And one of the most curious correlations turns out to be with rain.

Presenter: Andrew Dilnot
Producer: Michael Blastland

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday, 11 June, 2007 at 1630 BST.


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Diagnosis by computer statistics
11 Jun 07 |  More Or Less


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