20 December 2009

Nothing Up My Sleeve...

But sometimes it feels like folks are pulling a fast one. Consider this article from today's NYTimes, about 'cancer treatment centers.'

Now, I would never wish to dishearten someone who is facing medical crisis, but the idea that hospitals and clinics are playing a little fast and loose with facts is distressing to me. Sure, we all should be able to promote our services and products, but this strikes me as playing too obviously to people in a state of emotional intensity. Who makes good choices when your own life and limb are suddenly insecure?

Of course, there are those who actually use numbers. But few do because of the hubbub over mammography recommendations. But as another article shows, even numbers can be confounding. (The graphic connected to the article is really good!)

Numbers sound factual, so many this and so much of that. But I know numbers are just as easily misunderstood or put to obfuscation as words. Just look at how both Republicans and Democrats cite the CBO about health care reform, and how there are so many different numbers about the deficit, and so on.

Numbers are powerful, but we still have to think about them. Thinking, it seems, is what is in short supply everywhere. I commend it as a New Year's Resolution. It's on my list, for sure.

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