Clinical decision making is highly varying, as there are no strict criteria between operative and nonoperative management.

How to say this with one academically suitable word?

Clinical decision making is loose/slipshod

  • We like to help those who have first done a little research themselves. However, your question is clear and well-defined in a medical context and it is hard to see how you could have researched it in a mathematical/physical context without that expertise, which would of course have obviated the need for the question! I have therefore answered it as best I can.
    – Anton
    Mar 5 at 8:25
  • 1
    I would be inclined to disagree with the use of a term that makes the subject sound to be "ill-defined" or even worse. The subject is medical and to lead an audience to believe that the medical profession is in disarray and running around like headless chickens does not seem to be the best approach. Surely a better approach would be that "Clinical decision making is highly variable, as there are no defined criteria between operative and nonoperative management".
    – Brad
    Mar 5 at 8:44
  • @brad we are concerned with meaning, not with the maintenance of appearances. To deny the certainty of decisions is not to deny the worth of the process of decision-making.
    – Anton
    Mar 5 at 9:50
  • @Anton I would agree with you. However, the original sentence does not reflect a "certainty of decisions" but does reflect a "highly variable" one. It is yourself that has assumed "certainty of decisions" is questionable as opposed to varied.
    – Brad
    Mar 5 at 9:59
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    'Subjective', unlike 'slipshod', allows that many good decisions may be made. Mar 5 at 14:11

An academically suitable word may be one of the hyphenated adjectives based (amusingly, given your medical context) on ill. All are based on the idea that a solution or decision is to be based on some information but that the information is too poor to lead to a reliable result, or of such a nature that the result is very sensitive to small changes in the information.

Three candidates are ill-conditioned, ill-defined, ill-posed.

ill-defined = not clearly explained, described, or shown


ill-conditioned = In non-mathematical terms, an ill-conditioned problem is one where, for a small change in the inputs (the independent variables or the right-hand-side of an equation) there is a large change in the answer or dependent variable. This means that the correct solution/answer to the equation becomes hard to find



The mathematical term well-posed problem stems from a definition given by 20th-century French mathematician Jacques Hadamard. He believed that mathematical models of physical phenomena should have the properties that:

a solution exists; the solution is unique; the solution's behaviour changes continuously with the initial conditions.

Examples of archetypal well-posed problems include the Dirichlet problem for Laplace's equation, and the heat equation with specified initial conditions. These might be regarded as 'natural' problems in that there are physical processes modelled by these problems.

Problems that are not well-posed in the sense of Hadamard are termed ill-posed. Inverse problems are often ill-posed. For example, the inverse heat equation, deducing a previous distribution of temperature from final data, is not well-posed in that the solution is highly sensitive to changes in the final data.


The academic precision of the last term may be the best fit to your specification.

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