Intended for healthcare professionals

Choice Gp

Knowing when not to operate

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 06 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:a

Good surgeons know how to operate, better ones when to operate, and the best when not to operate. This famous saying surely applies right across medicine. The minute that a surgeon cuts the skin or a physician prescribes a drug, harm is done. Whatever benefit a treatment may bring will have to exceed that harm before the doctor is doing good. Unfortunately, many treatments have no benefit or only marginal benefit. Thus doctors can dedicate their lives to medicine and at the end have done only slightly more …

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