Much of the controversy in the recent Ashes test can be extended to the medical world...

The umpire is much like your physician, he doesn’t want to make any mistake but on the occasion he does, heads roll! Often envied as he has the best seat for a non-player and gets to wear the white coat, he actually has too much going on to enjoy the proceedings...

Every investigation (hotspot/ Southern blot/ snicko/ ELISA) have, among others, two important statistic indicators — sensitivity and specificity. A sensitive test doesn’t miss the disease, but it comes at a cost and some of those deemed by the test to have the disease actually don’t. In other words, it is used to rule out as a negative result means the disease is probably not present. This is like the LBW — you can say with certainty if the ball would have missed the stumps or was pitched outside. But if it shows the stumps knocked off, he might still not be out (say an inside edge which this can’t pick up or the half of the ball rule).

This is where the confirmatory tests come in. Confirmatory tests on the other hand, are meant to ‘rule in’ cases. This is like the hotspot. You can be damn sure if there was an edge, but the cost here is that if there ain’t no spot, it doesn’t mean there was no edge (the whole KP issue). But if you combine both of them and a good umpire, we can have a decent outing.

With something relatively non-life-endangering as a sport, there are so many issues in a batsman’s life. So you can imagine what goes in the minds of the doctors who deal with actual lives and actual life-threatening issues. Much like the umpire, a good doctor doesn’t hog the limelight for himself.

He tries hard to make the “Innings”, as long as it lasts, worthwhile and satisfactory. But as a human, he too errs on occasion, but is not because he wants to, but the opposition’s attack is more virulent than Jim Laker and more unforgiving than Shane Warne. To be able to judge fairly, he needs reinforcements. That he needs help is not a sign of incompetence, for on a bad day (like for Bucknor vs India, 2004), without help, even the best can err; but here, unlike the batsman, there is no second innings for the patient.

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