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A Statistician Writes

An occasional series in which statisticians write corrective notes based on articles previously published on this site.

#286.4+e Professor Para Bola, MA PhD, Whisky-McNightly Chair of Medical Statistics, University of Afpuddle Department of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Statistic writes:

I am afraid to say that in yesterday's contribution Mrs Anne Tiseptik makes a schoolgirl error. Her calculation of the number of lives saved by 25 more potential Dr Carringtons [a mere 625] was based on the assumption that Dr Carrington saved only 25 lives in total rather than 25 times more lives per operating shift than any other surgeon. Assuming [and it's a conservative assumption] that he/she/they/ze [Here we go again! [Ed]] clocks on for a 12-hour working day and that an ordinary surgeon saves an average of 2 lives per hour [ie. 24 lives per day], this means that Dr Carrington saves 25 x 24 lives per day ie 600 lives.

Professor Para Bola: something of an expert in his limited field.

Further assuming [if x=yxc²+e where e is the error term [ie 2.566666666]] that Dr Carrington works 6 days a week [probably 7 during the current crisis] then he either saves 3,600 or 4,200 lives per week. Further assuming an average of the two figures ie 3,600 + 4,200 divided by 2] ie 3,900, Dr Carrington alone saves 202,800 lives per year. It follows [the t-test not withstanding] that 25 more of him would save 5,070,000 lives per year in Dorset alone. This is comfortably more than the actual number of people dying in Dorset per year and hence more Dr Carringtons, as advocated by Ms Tisptik, would lead to an overall increase in the population of the county. Now, assuming that many of these are old, unproductive and bad-tempered it follows scientifically, that this is not necessarily a good thing.

Mrs Anne Tiseptik whose calculations have been called into question.

If, however, we speculate [NB this is a far less scientifically-reliable calculation than those previously advanced] that 1 in 10 of those who survive - who might otherwise not have done so and are less than decrepit - go on to medical careers and meet their own version of Nurse Wellbeloved, then it seems clear that [assuming x=ab² + y, where y is a constant] that a significant increase in the number of surgeons might mean that as many as 17 billion lives might be saved each year again IN DORSET ALONE. This is a result which we statisticians classify as "plausible but normatively scary".

Think about it.


Dr Norm Alkürv from the Dorset Institute of Advanced Statistical Modelling adds:

Professor Para Bola makes a schoolboy error when he states that "assuming x=ab² + y, where y is a constant ... ". For the record, y is not a constant but rather a function of x+yg² / mc, where c is the constant. Sloppy.

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