Saturday, April 11, 2009

Perceptions of Risk

I am in the middle of writing an article about perceptions of risk in medicine. Looking at how people perceive risk in medicine reminded me of my step father. My Dad died in 1982 and my Mom remarried 7 years later to a nice guy named Peter Sherlock who is a World War II veteran and a career Air Force sergeant. They were married until my Mom died in 2003. I have kept in touch with Peter since my Mom's passing. We talk every month or so.

Until August of 2007, every call with Peter would begin with him asking, "Are you still riding that damn bicycle?" Peter has a daughter my age who is an avid rider and who broke a hip in a bicycling accident several years ago. Peter thought bicycles were dangerous before her accident, but understandably became more strident after her accident. When I crashed in May 2007, Peter was beside himself when he found out I planned to ride again as soon as I got out of the neck brace.

But he hasn't said a word about bicycling since August of 2007. Peter perceives bicycling as very risky. But when I told him I re-enlisted, he was almost gleeful. He thought that was great. He said, "You won't regret it. Best job in the world." When I told him I was going to Iraq, it did not change his opinion at all. "You'll be fine," he said.

Obviously, lots of people perceive risk differently than Peter, but it is fun to call him and hear him be as "Rah! Rah!" as an 86-year-old can get on serving in the military. And he never asks at all whether I am "riding that damn bicycle."