Epistemology and Ethics of Evidence-Based Medicine: Putting Goal-Setting in the Right Place
Journal of evaluation in clinical practice 2010 Apr; 16(2): 301-5
While evidence-based medicine (EBM) is often accused on relying on a paradigm of 'absolute truth', it is in fact highly consistent with Karl Popper's criterion of demarcation through falsification. Even more relevant, the first three steps of the EBM process are closely patterned on Popper's evolutionary approach of objective knowledge: (1) recognition of a problem; (2) generation of solutions; and (3) selection of the best solution. This places the step 1 of the EBM process (building an answerable question) in a pivotal position for the understanding of the whole process, and underscores a few aspects which are often overlooked in EBM courses. First in this step internal evidence (including personal expertise) must be appraised and integrated in the problem. Second, issues of applicability of the possible solution should be anticipated. Third, and possibly more important, the goal of the intervention should be set at this stage (typically by choosing the outcome in a PICO question). Depending whether or not goals depend on the goals of others, and whether they concern others' voluntary behaviour, goals may be classified as self-serving, moral, altruistic or moralistic. Thus, delicate ethical questions must be addressed at this stage, which means that patient preferences and values must be carefully sought, so that empathy, counselling and narrative medicine must be mastered to be able to formulate correctly an answerable question. The need to modify the current description of the EBM process to increase the recognition of implicit assumptions and increase the consistency of this model is discussed.
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Doing the Right Thing Right: Is Evidence-Based Medicine the Answer? Review of EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE: HOW to PRACTICE and TEACH EBM, by D.L. Sackett, W.S. Richardson, W. Rosenberg and R.B. Haynes; and EVIDENCE-BASED HEALTHCARE: HOW to MAKE HEALTH POLICY and MANAGEMENT DECISIONS, by J.A. Muir Gray) Wallace, Eleanor Z.; Leipzig, Rosanne M. (1997-07-01)