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Posts Tagged ‘risk’

Let’s unpack an interesting social phenomenon, shall we?

Many people alive today live in highly regulated societies. Australia is one such society, so is the UK.

Many regulations are aimed at keeping people safe. Other regulations are ostensibly aimed at keeping people safe, but are either ineffective or have some other purpose.

It is possible to argue that the criminalisation of certain drugs falls into the latter category: many people believe that the fact that a drug is criminalised is an indication is is less safe than a drug that has not been criminalised. This is not necessarily true. The historical reasons for criminalising particular drugs are varied, and not all are to do with safety. It is also an open question whether criminalising a drug that is unsafe is the most effective way of protecting society and/or potential users.

This is important. It means that there is a real possibility that people will assume that a drug that is not criminalised is totally and completely safe, whereas a drug that is criminalised is totally and completely unsafe. The second aspect of that causes problems of its own (such as the fact that if people are sold an absolutist position of any kind, anything which shows that the absolutist position is not entirely true tends to result in people reaching the conclusion that the absolutist position is entirely not true), but this post is about the first aspect.

It’s at work in the reactions and positions described in this article about mephedrone.

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Note: Thanks to Lauredhel for encouraging me to write this post; otherwise, it might have slipped through the cracks of “other priorities”.

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For various reasons – mostly because I seem to have a lot of friends who are doctors – I’ve had the opportunity to chat to a number of doctors, nurses and midwives about birth. Particularly topical at the moment is the home birth debate (as I’ve been drafting this post, I see that the government has announced that it will no longer be effectively prohibiting home birth, although it still won’t be supporting it).

All of the doctors with whom I have had the home birth vs hospital birth discussion have expressed a clear preference for hospital birth. This is not because they think hospitals are perfect – most of the doctors I know work in the (public!) hospital system, and are aware of at least some of the failures of that system. Similarly, the nurses and mid-wives that I’ve spoken to who work within the hospital system generally expressed a preference for hospital birth.

The reason for this near-universal preference is, I think, for two main reasons: (1) they spend more time with the births that go wrong (especially the doctors), and those stick in their minds, and (2) they are incredibly risk-averse.*

And fair enough, I say. However, I disagree with their assessment of risk.

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