Research Article

Doctors' attitudes to risk in difficult clinical decisions: application of decision analysis in hepatobiliary disease.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 289 doi: (Published 28 July 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;289:213
  1. A Theodossi,
  2. D J Spiegelhalter,
  3. I G McFarlane,
  4. R Williams


    Twelve doctors with special training in hepatology independently reviewed two to five cases each from a group of seven cases of complicated hepatobiliary problems. A doctor's willingness to take risks to improve his patients' health was quantified by a wagering technique based on the probability of achieving a successful intervention. These probabilities were then used to calculate "utilities," which represented the average opinion of the doctors about the relative worth of each of six predefined states of health. The results showed that, in the context of risky decisions for severely ill patients, a year of life was considered by the doctors to be worth 44% of a full recovery; being mobile for that year increased this value to 57%. Survival for up to five years with restricted mobility was considered to be worth 70% of a full recovery and the ability to work during that period increased this value to 85%. It is concluded that in clinical decision making the uncertainty and preferences implicit in a course of action can be quantified and thus made explicit.