From the Eyeball Test to the Algorithm — Quality of Life, Disability Status, and Clinical Decision Making in Surgery

New England Journal of Medicine 14 (387):1325-1328 (2022)
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Qualitative evidence concerning the relationship between QoL and a wide range of disabilities suggests that subjective judgments regarding other people’s QoL are wrong more often than not and that such judgments by medical practitioners in particular can be biased. Guided by their desire to do good and avoid harm, surgeons often rely on "the eyeball test" to decide whether a patient will or will not benefit from surgery. But the eyeball test can easily harbor a range of implicit judgments and biases against patients with disabilities, including erroneous assumptions about QoL. We critique the use of the "eyeball" test and offer suggestions to reduce bias and ensure that patients’ values are more consistently prioritized in surgical decision-making.

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Joel Michael Reynolds
Georgetown University


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