Is it time for biostatistics to take its place next to leeches in the annual of medical history? Almost all treatments have some uses. And although they now have a ‘bad’ reputation leeches are no exception.
There are diseases for which blood-letting is absolutely the correct treatment, even essential. Other treatments have been developed from leeches anticoagulant abilities, although most forget leeches role and you can’t treat those conditions applying leeches to the skin.
Bloodletting is an effective and powerful placebo, however leeches appear to have been once used widely. Far more widely than their benefits and this is why, if we are not careful, biostatistics will go the same way.
Mathematics is pure, light and dark, which makes statistics a strange branch of mathematics. It is decidedly grey, without ‘right’ answers much of the time and for the rest of the time the results are not even ‘answers’. Statistics tells us much about large groups, populations. But leaves us struggling with the individual. If we do not continue to remember where biostatistics gives use valuable guidance and where it fails us, it will be come a leech and we may lose all its value.