This article from BBC News explores the complexity doctors face in interpreting statistics and the challenge this creates for supporting patients to make informed decisions about their treatment.
The article uses a series of examples to highlight how difficult it can be to interpret statistics, and how confusion over what the statistics actually tell us has implications for how doctors practice and the treatments they recommend. For example, in October 1995, when the UK's Committee on Safety of Medicines warned doctors that a new, third-generation oral contraceptive pill doubled the risk of thrombosis. Thousands of women came off the pill, even though the risk had merely increased from a one-in-7,000 chance of getting the disease to a two-in-7,000 chance. The following year saw an additional 13,000 abortions in the UK.
Not only does this create challenges in communicating information, but the article also argues that even educated patients feel uncomfortable asking their doctors too many questions of questioning their recommendations, for fear of being labelled ‘difficult’.