Intended for healthcare professionals


Smoking, alcohol, and the north-south divide . . . and other stories

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 16 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1240

Cassandra's regret

Cassandra, you may recall, was given the power of foretelling the future. Medicine tries to tell the future through genomics, risk scores, telomeres, biochemical markers, and even the faecal microbiome. But when Gerd Gigerenzer and a colleague conducted surveys in Germany and Spain, they found that between 85% and 90% of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40% to 70% prefer to remain ignorant of positive events. Only 1% of participants consistently wanted to know. Their paper on regret theory (Psychol Rev doi:10.1037/rev0000055) is bound to become a classic.

Pre-eclamptic toxaemia and cardiovascular disease

Pre-eclamptic toxaemia in pregnancy is an example of a “Cassandra condition,” one which increases the future risk of bad events in ways we don't …

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