The Medical Black Box



A friend sent me  a podcast from RadioLab a few weeks ago. The topic was ‘black boxes’ and since he knew I was an anesthesiologist in the making, he thought I would find this one particularly interesting. I did.

RadioLab Black Box Podcast

How scientists and physicians have managed to put people to sleep or ease their pain for surgery has long baffled and interested me. We know what drugs work — yet we don’t completely understand how. In the medical world, an unsettling amount of practice relies on observation, experience, and guidelines, most of which we do without being able to prove why or how something works to improve health.

As physicians and scientists, we strive for exact, objective data. New technology has improved our knowledge and ability to research and learn. Yet, there still remains uncertainty. We must be willing to at times settle for less than ‘evidence-based by clinical trial’ and allow questions  into a profession where stakes are high for both the patients and the physicians, and where certainty is required by both parties.

Photo Credit: thierry ehrmann


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