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BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 23 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:0

On not knowing about the everyday

Today in every town, doctors will be taking cervical smears, treating neck pain, and answering questions about the possibility of women giving birth at home; and in the larger towns doctors will be inserting catheters into the pulmonary arteries of seriously ill patients. Patients will naturally assume that the doctors know exactly what they are doing. “Perhaps doctors are uncertain,” they may think, “about the implications of all these genes being discovered, and clearly they don't know much about whether ‘mad cow disease’ can spread to man. But …

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