Deadly Maths

I could probably guess that maths has ever seemed to be a life or death situation before to many people. I also hadn’t seemed like that to me before our Discovering Mathematics input with Dr Ellie Hothersall. Nevertheless, to doctors that is exactly what maths is. This is another place and job in society that I never thought of linking mathematics to. However, being a doctor means using mathematics to potentially save someone’s life and using mathematics incorrectly means they could potentially make a fatal mistake for their patients.

Doctors use maths every day and every day the maths they do affect the patients they treat. Dr Ellie Hothersall taught us just how much maths doctors us on a daily basis. They are constantly monitoring patients and plotting all of the information they take into several forms of graphs to make sure the patient’s health is improving.

However, one of the most important aspect of their job that they use maths for is prescribing our medication to us. As patients we trust that our doctors are prescribing us the correct amount of medication and telling us correctly when to take the medication and how much medication to take at any time. This can take a lot of mathematics to work out when and how much of a drug to take.

Michael Jackson’s doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for giving the world famous singer an overdose of an intravenous sedative (Graham, 2013) (Unknown, 2011). Jackson died in 2009 (Wikipedia, undated) after allegedly being given too much intravenous drugs including Propofol (“a fast acting hospital sedative” (Unknown, 2011)) which his doctor gave to him to help him sleep. The overdose of drugs – if it was not on propose which has never been proven – would have been a miscalculation of a prescription from his doctor leading to Jackson’s death.

This shows a fatal miscalculation of drugs can lead to someone death. This has happened many times and to ordinary people as well –  a doctor in America was charged with murder after killing three of her patients when she prescribed fatal overdoses of drugs they were already addicted to (Gerber et al.,  2015).

Although this is not normal practice and these show extreme examples – it goes to show how essential mathematics is to a doctor in their day to day practice. Without their ability to do mathematics there could be a lot more deaths due to overdoses.

There is goes to show that maths is a crucial aspect of the medical profession and it is critical that doctors understand mathematics to continue to prescribe us with medication because if the medication is prescribed wrong it can be a fatal error.




Graham (2013) ‘No I didn’t Kill Michael. He….King of Pop Available at:–massive-overdose-using-stash-What-really-happened-night-Jackson-died-Dr-Conrad-Murray-doctor-jailed-death-King-Pop.html (Accessed on 10/11/15)

Gerber et al. (2015) California Doctor Convicted of Murder in Overdose Deaths of Patients Available at: (Accessed on 10/11/15)

Unknown (2011) The Drugs Found in Michael Jackson’s Body After He Died Available at: (Accessed on 10/11/15)

Wikipedia (undated) Death of Michael Jackson Available at: (Accessed on 10/11/15)

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