Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Tag: prognosis

Expiration Date

The only person ever convicted in the Pan Am explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi died this past Sunday.

He’d been released from a British prison in the summer of 2009 on humanitarian grounds as it was known he had advanced prostate cancer.

Medical experts predicted that he would only live three months or less upon his release.

A year later, pundits started questioning why he had been released since in spite of his cancer, he was still alive.

Nearly three years after his release, he finally succumbed. He was buried in Libya on Monday.

Doc, How Long Have I Got? [UPDATED]

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light..."

[Editor’s note: I’ve truncated this post because it was picked up by Slate for their Medical Examiner column. Check it out over there & feel free to comment there and here! -GH]

A year ago, U.K. officials released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi to Libya on humanitarian grounds, based on a prediction that he had only three months to live. Karol Sikora, the British cancer expert on whose opinion the decision was based, recently owned up to his miscalculation to a London paper: “There was always a chance he could live for ten years, twenty years…But it’s very unusual.” The decision to release al-Megrahi was vilified by victims’ families, and the issue was placed on a short list of U.S. concerns in a recent meeting between President Obama and new British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Which raises the obvious question: How did Dr. Sikora get it so wrong?

To find out, head on over to Slate and read the whole article called “The Worst Fortune Tellers: Why doctors are so bad at predicting how long their patients will live.”


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