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March 16, 1935


JAMA. 1935;104(11):924-925. doi:10.1001/jama.1935.02760110052015

Statistical inquiries perhaps are frequently viewed with more respect than may actually be warranted. When applied to medical subjects, statistics have the same significance as the x-rays: they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Thus the now numerous statistical studies dealing with maternal mortality must be analyzed as a laboratory test would be rather than serving merely as a basis for recriminations. The lesson of essential importance is not that the maternal mortality rate is higher in one country or district than another but that certain factors influence the death rate from this cause and that some of them may be favorably affected by the knowledge gained from statistical analysis.

In order to serve a useful purpose therefore statistics, like laboratory tests, must be both accurate and understood. The factors influencing the accuracy of vital statistics are twofold. The first of these is the clinical