Uncertainty, consultation, and the context of medical care

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 03 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:515
  1. Sandra J Tanenbaum (, associate professor1
  1. 1 School of Public Health, Ohio State University, 246 Atwell Hall, 1583 Perry Street, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

    Although the ascendancy of evidence based medicine obscures the uncertainty inherent in patient care, this uncertainty remains a defining fact of medical life. Griffiths et al listened to health professionals and identified three distinct approaches that were used in consultations—two of which they judged to understate the risk level of patients.1 They recommend that health professionals should be trained to communicate with their patients without recourse to the myth of medical certainty.

    The authors produced a distribution of approaches to consultation across several health professionals, settings, and health issues, and draw some intriguing inferences. Their findings also generate further research questions, especially …

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