Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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The Bell Curve

February 5th, 2005 · No Comments

[via Atanu] The New Yorker has a fascinating essay by Atul Gawande which asks: “What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are?”

In medicine, we are used to confronting failure; all doctors have unforeseen deaths and complications. What were not used to is comparing our records of success and failure with those of our peers. I am a surgeon in a department that is, our members like to believe, one of the best in the country. But the truth is that we have had no reliable evidence about whether were as good as we think we are. Baseball teams have win-loss records. Businesses have quarterly earnings reports. What about doctors?

Somehow, what troubles people isnt so much being average as settling for it. Everyone knows that averageness is, for most of us, our fate. And in certain matterslooks, money, tenniswe would do well to accept this. But in your surgeon, your childs pediatrician, your police department, your local high school? When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we expect averageness to be resisted. And so I push to make myself the best. If Im not the best already, I believe wholeheartedly that I will be. And you expect that of me, too.

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