The Negligent Treatment of Medical Anecdote

Tuesday September 1, 2015

Good teachers are being publicly derided by the self-elected ‘pedagogy police’ for talking about ‘what works for me’, even if the canon of ‘approved’ research indicates it shouldn’t.


So, it is interesting to come across the following passage, sent to us by a GP who sees health education the way we see school education, with the human being at the centre of it.

‘It is hard to know why anecdote is now treated so lightly by doctors. First hand, actual, original observation should still be part of the doctor’s way of working. Clinical trials are not oracular. However sophisticated, they do not stop at publication. They start at publication. There is nothing, not even the legislature of fashion, which should disbar or absolve doctors from being curious. But that habit of curiosity, of critical regard and appraisal of their work, is, as we have seen, being lost…

…The following three questions, their brevity enabling their use even by the busiest doctor, should be asked each time a patient receives medical attention. Did the patient benefit? Did the patient not benefit? Was the patient made worse?’

Pickering, W. The negligent treatment of medical anecdote. BMJ. 1992; 304: 1516

If it works, use it, let the research catch up and let the ‘Pedagogy Police’ continue to bicker among themselves.

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