“The plural of anecdote is data.”
(attributed to George Stigler)

My wife had breast cancer in 1986 and is an active consumer of information about breast cancer. A few days ago she gave me a link to a web site in which breast cancer survivors, almost always women, discuss their experiences. A number of the participants are Canadian. Here’s a recent such discussion.

I find at least 3 things interesting about this.

1. Notice how informed the participants tend to be about their own situation. Each woman who participates gives the specifics of her case: size of tumor, treatment, etc., often in a shorthand that each expects the other readers to understand. This makes me wonder about the claim that even many health economists make that people don’t understand enough about health care to be thoughtful consumers.

2. The Canadian woman who introduces the topic got essentially no after-surgery treatment from an oncologist. Notice how surprised by that are the American women who comment.

3. One Canadian woman, Connie, doesn’t just tell anecdotes but gives data. Specifically, she claims “Do you realize that OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan] puts a cap on what some surgeons and specialists make in a year and if they want to operate after that – they get paid 25 cents on the dollar?” My quick search failed to find support for this statement, but it’s checkable.