How many lives does a doctor save? – Part 3 – Replacement

If I become a doctor, I won’t increase the total number of doctors by one. The NHS has a limited budget, so it can’t just hire every qualified person who applies; medical schools have limited places by law, and there are more applicants who are ‘good enough’ than there are places. If I become a doctor, then I’ve just displaced someone else who would have taken the job.

Doctor

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How many lives does a doctor save? – Part 2 – Diminishing marginal returns

Dalysper100000versusdoctorsper100000

In the first post, I worked out an upper bound for the average direct health impact of a doctor in the UK, and found it amounted to producing about 2600 QALYs. We can think of this, very roughly, as saving 90 lives. This doesn’t, however, show how much difference you make by becoming a doctor. There’s already about 200,000 doctors in the UK. How can we take the figure for the average impact of a doctor and work out the impact of an additional doctor?

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How many lives does a doctor save?

It seemed a pretty good career move for a 17-year old wanting to make a difference. Like thousands of others, I applied to read medicine. This is what I wrote on my personal statement: “I want to study medicine because of a desire I have to help others, and so the chance of spending a career doing something worthwhile I can’t resist. Of course, Doctors don’t have a monopoly on altruism, but I believe the attributes I have lend themselves best to medicine, as opposed to all the other work I could do instead.” Was I right? Is medicine a good career choice for someone wanting to ‘make a difference’?
Doctor

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