The gold standard: not a golden standard

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 12 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1121
  1. Jurgen A H R Claassen, consultant geriatrician (
  1. Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, Netherlands

    Studies that evaluate a new diagnostic test, procedure, or method should do so by comparing it with a time honoured alternative that is considered to be the current standard in the field. In this context the meaning of the word standard is “authoritative or recognised exemplar of quality or correctness.” “Gold standard” is the popular term to describe this test; but “golden standard” is sometimes used as well. In fact, almost all medical publications in Dutch use the term “gouden standaard” which is a translation of “golden standard.” Apparently, medical scientists have become confused about the true meaning of the term gold standard. Inspired by the Olympic Games, where the best athlete wins the gold medal, people who use …

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