Medical profession has come to have a faith on diagnostic tests almost as much as the faith of a true Christian on the Word. But the concept behind every diagnostic test has an inherent fallacy lying in an arbitrary fixation of what is to be considered normal. To know how the statistical concept of Normal Distributions has come to be abused and misused by medical profession, read on.
Medical practitioners of this age are professionals who know how to exploit human fear of an uncertain future. Using diagnostic tests and tools they are trained to create a fear of pain, death and suffering by convincing people of an illness or a certainty that they are going to develop an illness sooner rather than later. A wide range of diagnostic tests are often the handy tools to help create that fear. They also ensure that every doctor you go to shall deliver the same verdict or diagnosis. None dares challenge it because none knows or understands that an excess or deficiency of some chemical in the body or its exudations is or often could be as normal as below or above average height.
Statisticians know that most of the naturally occurring phenomena follow a very specific statistical pattern they call “Normal Distribution”. There is an average level called mean and with the exception of extremely few data points, entire data will lie on the left or right of this mean. But that does not mean that entire population could be termed abnormal by virtue of being below or above the mean.
That led statisticians develop the concept of Standard Deviation. This concept provides a unit to measure deviation of data points from the mean. With this concept in place it became a lot easier to define what should be construed as normal. Data points within one unit of standard deviation could be termed as normal as they constitute about 68.2% of the population. Another 27.2% of data points could be termed borderline as they were located more than one unit of standard deviation away but not more than two units of standard deviation away. That left 4.2% cases more than two units but less than three units of standard deviation away which could be termed definitely abnormal and the remaining 0.2% cases beyond three units of standard deviation from the mean could be termed extremely abnormal.
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Grading systems in place in schools in US use this concept for awarding grades to students and the concept is gaining popularity across the continents.
Misuse and abuse of these statistical results and formulations has created tools for medical practitioners to term every one as physically sick and a patient to be treated. There are almost a million chemicals that would be normally found in every human body. Once sufficient data is gathered for levels found in humans for any of these chemicals X, it is possible to find a mean and standard deviation for the entire population. Then it is easy to define 0.2% of the population as extremely ill, 4.2% as definitely ill and another 27.2% as inclined to that particular illness. In this manner medical research has progressed to an extent that today if you give them an opportunity and pay for n number of diagnostic tests, any medical practitioner will come out with some diagnosis and prescribe a large number of drugs or medications. Word about new research spreads fast and with these same reports you can go to any other doctor who will confirm the same diagnosis relying on the same though in all probability ill conceived research.
This uniformity of diagnosis is an important factor that keeps the patients hooked once they have been baited with a diagnosis.
The way many of these diagnostic tests are developed leaves much to be desired. As a scholar of mathematics and later a writer this writer has been approached by medical researchers on many occasions for assistance in cooking up figures to make their data support their hypothesis. After the internet became popular many sites have sprung up that do just that through mathematicians and writers willing to help a researcher in defrauding the community for a fee. God help you if that kind of research becomes the basis for your diagnosis and your doctor’s prescription.
This is not to undermine all the advances made by the medical science and researchers but only to warn a normal person to gather sufficient information and do some research of his own before following a doctor’s prescription for a diagnosis which had never made him feel anything unusual.