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Learning from Data: The Art of Statistics

Pdf Book Name: Learning from Data: The Art of Statistics
Author: David Spiegelhalter
Publisher: Pelican
ISBN-10, 13: 0241398630,9780241398630
Year: 2019
Pages: 365
Language: English
File size: 5 MB
File format: PDF,EPUB

Learning from Data: The Art of Statistics Pdf Book Description:

Harold Shipman was Britain’s most prolific convicted murderer, though he does not fit the archetypal profile of a serial killer. A mild-mannered family doctor working in a suburb of Manchester, between 1975 and 1998 he injected at least 215 of his mostly elderly patients with a massive opiate overdose. He finally made the mistake of forging the will of one of his victims so as to leave him some money: her daughter was a solicitor, suspicions were aroused, and forensic analysis of his computer showed he had been retrospectively changing patient records to make his victims appear sicker than they really were. He was well known as an enthusiastic early adopter of technology, but he was not tech-savvy enough to realize that every change he made was time-stamped (incidentally, a good example of data revealing hidden meaning). Of his patients who had not been cremated, fifteen were exhumed and lethal levels of diamorphine, the medical form of heroin, were found in their bodies. Shipman was subsequently tried for fifteen murders in 1999, but chose not to offer any defence and never uttered a word at his trial. He was found guilty and jailed for life, and a public inquiry was set up to determine what crimes he might have committed apart from those for which he had been tried, and whether he could have been caught earlier. I was one of a number of statisticians called to give evidence at the public inquiry, which concluded that he had definitely murdered 215 of his patients, and possibly 45 more.2 This book will focus on using statistical science fn1 to answer the kind of questions that arise when we want to better understand the world – some of these questions will be highlighted in a box. In order to get some insight into Shipman’s behaviour, a natural first question is: The public inquiry provided details of each victim’s age, gender and date of death.

Figure 0.1 is a fairly sophisticated visualization of this data, showing a scatter-plot of the age of victim against their date of death, with the shading of the points indicating whether the victim was male or female. Bar-charts have been superimposed on the axes showing the pattern of ages (in 5–year bands) and years. Some conclusions can be drawn by simply taking some time to look at the figure. There are more black than white dots, and so Shipman’s victims were mainly women. The bar-chart on the right of the picture shows that most of his victims were in their 70s and 80s, but looking at the scatter of points reveals that although initially they were all elderly, some younger cases crept in as the years went by. The bar-chart at the top clearly shows a gap around 1992 when there were no murders. It turned out that before that time Shipman had been working in a joint practice with other doctors but then, possibly as he felt under suspicion, he left to form a single-handed general practice. After this his activities accelerated, as demonstrated by the top bar-chart.

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