Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Perfect prognoses

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 04 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:c7467
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Prognosis is, as we all know, an inexact science, at best. Some people live longer than predicted, and some do not survive as long. It is even possible that there have been doctors who, in the secret recesses of their heart, have felt slightly irritated that their patients have defied their crystal clear instructions as to how long to live.

But how accurate would we like prognosis to be? Would any of us like to know in advance the exact time and date of our own death or those of the people around us?

Is all knowledge necessarily good? I once discussed our understanding of the brain with an eminent professor who thought that it was. He was all …

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