December 4, 2021

Opinion | Occam’s Razor, Meet Hickam’s Dictum

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Stained glass image of William of Occam at All Saints Church in Ockham, England.


Paula Bailey

Regarding Andrew Crumey’s review of “Life Is Simple” (Books, Oct. 9): Occam’s razor has wide applicability to the practice of medicine. The simplest and most logical diagnosis is usually correct. This principle of logic is used to narrow diagnostic possibilities.

Using Occam’s razor in an increasingly elderly population that may have multiple diseases, however, may lead physicians to discount the importance of coexisting illnesses. Physicians should be aware of Hickam’s dictum. Named after the late

Dr. John Hickam,

the dictum states: “A man can have as many diseases as he damn well pleases.”

Leo Gordon, M.D.

Los Angeles

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the October 16, 2021, print edition as ‘In Medicine, Occam’s Razor Requires Hickam’s Dictum.’

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