Medicine News of the Weird Skepticism/critical thinking

A different take on Oscar the Kitty of Doom


(LOL Oscar from Lauren.)

While I expressed skepticism the other day regarding the media reports that a cat named Oscar could predict which patients at the nursing home in which he resides were within hours of death, some of you believed it, some even going so far as to speculate that not only could Oscar detect impending death but that he hangs out by the dying because he wants a snack.

But none have gone so far as Mighty Ponygirl in speculating about Oscar’s true motivation.

Personally, I like my explanation that it’s just confirmation bias better. It’s less–shall we say?–disturbing. I also tend to agree with Clark about the potentially pernicious effects that the belief among the nursing home staff in Oscar’s predictive ability could have on patient care.

Another pernicious effect is that the staff now call the families of patients to whom Oscar pays attention to tell them that they should come in because their loved one’s death is imminent. In other words, the staff is starting to base health care decisions (whether to call family or not) on the cat’s behavior. If that were my relative in the nursing, my first question would be: Why do you think death is imminent? If they told me it was because the cat was curling up with him or her, personally, I’d start looking for another nursing home.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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