Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Coma prognosis in soap operas

BMJ has published a piece about coma prognosis for characters on soap operas (along the lines of the famous article about CPR outcomes on the TV show "ER" 10 years ago). They looked at 10 years of programs from 9 popular US soaps. I can't vouch for how good these results are as the authors were forced to use non-validated secondary sources for their findings & it appeared they came across some unusual methodological contingencies. A quote:

We included only the first episode of coma for each patient. We determined the patient's characteristics and the cause of coma by reviewing the storyline at an official or sanctioned website and resolved disagreement by consensus. When a patient had an identity change (a facial transplant in one case), we used the characteristics of the original patient for analysis.

The results are not surprising. Notably, 89% of patients recovered fully, and 86% of patients had no residual disability on the day that they recovered (except for, naturally, some amnesia). This, the authors point out, is for a population (soap opera characters) that has a remarkably high overall mortality.

They conclude: In the interests of public health, soap operas and other forms of mass media should seek to balance stories of improbable survival and recovery with compelling and compassionate stories of characters who die with comfort and dignity.

Good luck....

(BMJ annually publishes an issue devoted to unusual and unconventional papers, often--but not always--funny, & this article is from this year's. It's worth a read if you have the time.)

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