Prostate specific antigen testing for prostate cancerBMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7367.725 (Published 05 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:725
Engaging with the public may address their concerns and produce workable solutions
- Hazel Thornton, honorary visiting fellow,
- Mary Dixon-Woods, senior lecturer in social sciences and health
- Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 6TP
Papers pp 737, 740 Education and debatep 766
Medical screening is an example of “institutionalisation of risk.”1 In practice this often entails imperfect tests, sometimes inappropriately presented to the public,2 that discover diseases we do not fully understand and cannot adequately treat. Pressures for the establishment of national screening programmes are widespread, but we are now seeing countries seeking to learn from others' experiences or from their own established national programmes. 3 4 But attempts to resist public pressures for new screening programmes may be mistrusted as attempts to save money, betray the science, or fool the public, or as sex discrimination. Traditionally, the response to such apparent public ignorance or irrationality has been to argue that the public needs to be educated and people's views corrected to align more correctly with what policy makers and scientists want them to believe. Perhaps what is needed now is not so much public understanding of science as understanding of the public by scientists.