“I can fix this.”
The neurosurgeon was nothing if not confident.
“The cyst is pushing on your spinal cord. If it continues to expand, it will damage your nerves and you may lose the ability to walk. But I can remove the cyst, and cure you.”
The patient was a business school professor, a man comfortable with risk-benefit ratios and complex decisions. He probed for more information. The surgeon was happy to provide him with some numbers.
“There’s an 80 percent chance you’re cured. You sail through surgery. But there is a 3 percent chance of a very bad outcome — death or paralysis. And then a 15-17 percent chance of more minor side effects, things you will recover from.”
The professor was not happy to learn these numbers, but given the inevitability of paralysis if he didn’t get the procedure, the 3 percent figure sounded well worth the risk. So he agreed to undergo the surgery.
Days later, he lay on a bed in the pre-operative suite, an IV in his arm and blue hospital socks adorning his feet. The neurosurgeon came by to check in on him. He re-explained the procedure and its risks. The professor was unmoved. He understood the situation and felt good about his chances. Then, just when it looked like the surgeon would head back to the operating room, he instead lowered his head and held the professor’s hands… (Read more and view comments at The Atlantic)