Thursday, October 17, 2019

Cognitive Biases and Urine Tests (and Lawyers)

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been researching cognitive biases and lawyers for the last couple of years.  Cognitive biases can cause attorneys to make egregious errors.  The same is true for doctors, as this article demonstrates:

New York Times,  Rx for Doctors: Stop With the Urine Tests.

"The tests often are positive in people without symptoms, particularly older patients. The result: overtreatment with antibiotics."

"Yet such test results, signifying what’s known in doctor-talk as asymptomatic bacteriuria, frequently lead to unnecessary treatment with antibiotics."

“We now recognize that there’s a strong cognitive bias,” said Dr. Christine Soong, head of hospital medicine at Sinai Health System in Toronto and co-author of a recent editorial on the subject in JAMA Internal Medicine. “Once a clinician sees bacteria in the urine, the reflex is, you can’t ignore it. You want to treat it.”

"Now, the campaign has changed from trying to prevent needless treatment to trying to curtail the testing that prompts it. If concerned doctors can’t dissuade their colleagues from treating these non-infections, they’re trying to discourage them from ordering urine tests in the first place."

As you can see, cognitive biases can cause doctors to over-prescribe antibiotics, which can harm patients.

It is similar for lawyers.  Cognitive biases can cause lawyers to misdiagnose legal problems.  Consequently, it is important that law professors introduce their students to cognitive biases before they graduate.

(Scott Fruehwald)



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