AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2011, Volume 13, Number 1.

Ethics Poll

Population-Based Evidence and the Individual Patient

The Ethics Poll is a snapshot of the opinions of interested readers.

Suppose all available evidence suggests that a full-body CT scan for a person with no symptoms of disease or illness carries more risks than potential benefits. A person who has no signs or symptoms of disease and has been informed of the potential risks and benefits wants to have a full-body CT scan for his own peace of mind. His physician does not think the individual should have the scan. If the patient wants the scan and has health insurance that will pay for it, the physician should order the scan..
In general, I think that teaching medical students how to understand and interpret statistical evidence derived from studies reported in the literature will make those students less reliant on a patient's history, physical exam of the patient, and what the patient says about his or her symptoms.
As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the U.S. government will fund "comparative effectiveness research," comparing the effectiveness of a specific medical intervention with that of another, based on a predefined outcome such as survival rate, side-effects profile, or quality of life achieved. The cost of the interventions being compared is not part of the effectiveness research. Do you think that the cost of an intervention should be part of the calculation of its effectiveness?

Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of our readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.