Spam Journalism #59

By Jim McVeagh 24/09/2009

Spam Journalism: The spurious use of sensational headlines to add spice to an otherwise pointless article.

This is what happens when legitimate studies are reported sensationally:

Bad doctors most likely to be men, report shows

Women make safer doctors than men, Britain’s largest study of medical performance has found.

They are less likely to be investigated over concerns about their behaviour, clinical skills or conduct and are much less likely than their male colleagues to be suspended or barred from work.

An analysis of almost 5000 doctors and dentists referred to the UK’s National Clinical Assessment Service over the past eight years because of worries about their performance shows a strong gender imbalance.

The article then rambles on about past cases of dangerous male doctors without once pausing to consider why there are more complaints against male doctors than female doctors. Could it be that:

  • There are still proportionally more male than female doctors, although this is rapidly evening out as medical schools tend to produce more female than male doctors.
  • Men tend to work more hours than women, partly because more women take the part-time option.
  • Men receive a much larger proportion of trivial complaints against them, particularly those involving demeanour.
  • Men tend to gravitate to specialities that generate the largest numbers of serious complaints, particularly Orthopaedics and Emergency Medicine (Obstetrics is nowhere near as risky, but attracts high insurance premiums in the US because the payouts are huge)

So the conclusion that ’Women are safer doctors’ is utter codswallop. You could just as easily conclude that black doctors are safer than white doctors because they generate fewer complaints. Also achondroplastic dwarf doctors must be very safe — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a complaint against one…