Intended for healthcare professionals


Understanding risk

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 04 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1086
  1. David R Derbyshire, consultant in anaesthesia (
  1. Warwick Hospital

    I spent the afternoon before the Rugby Union world cup with a patient liaison group, fine tuning our anaesthetic literature for distribution to preoperative patients. An essential part of this sort of information is a risk-benefit explanation. Patients increasingly seem to expect that low risk is equivalent to no risk and that if something goes wrong it is a consequence of “fault” and lack of care. The only time people turn this perception of risk-benefit on its head is with the lottery: people regularly buy into the 1 in 14 million chance of winning the jackpot, but none would expect to be hit by lightning or die under anaesthesia—both of which are more likely.

    I was healthy—a low risk for occlusive vascular events. I was 51 years old, a non-smoker for 20 years, body mass index 24.5, blood pressure a reasonable …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription