The Way Physicians Break Bad News is Broken

Imagine picking up a telephone and hearing your doctor tell you there is a “999 out of 1,000 chance that you’ll be dead within a decade.”  That’s what Leonard Mlodinow experienced in 1989, when his routine HIV test didn’t turn out the way he expected.  Mlodinow tells this story in his 2008 book, The Drunkard’s Walk, a book in which he highlights how randomness affects people’s lives and, just as importantly, how frequently we human beings misperceive this randomness as following from predictable laws.  We mistake the drunkard’s walk for purposeful movement.

Mlodinow tells the HIV story to illustrate his physician’s inability to think probabilistically.  But I think the story just as profoundly illustrates the difficulty many doctors have…(Read more and view comments at Forbes)


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