Medical Decisions Under Uncertainty
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1993; 12(3-4-5): 277-281
The court applies the criteria of the reasonable doctor and common practice in order to consider the behaviour of a defendant physician. The meaning of our demand that the doctor expects that his or her acts or omissions will bring about certain implications is that, according to the present circumstances and subject to the limited knowledge of the common practice, the course of certain events or situations in the future may be assumed in spite of the fog of uncertainty which surrounds us. The miracles and wonders of creation are concealed from us, and we are not aware of the way and the nature of our bodily functioning. Therefore, there seems to be no way to avoid mistakes, because in several cases the correct diagnosis cannot be determined even with the most advanced application of all information available. Doctors find it difficult to admit that they grope in the dark. They wish to form clear and accurate diagnoses for their patients. The fact that their profession is faced with innumerable and unavoidable risks and mistakes is hard to swallow, and many of them claim that in their everyday work this does not happen. They should not content themselves by changing their style. A radical metamorphosis is needed. They should not be tempted to formulate their diagnoses in 'neutral' statements in order to be on the safe side. Uncertainty should be accepted and acknowledged by the profession and by the public at large as a human phenomenon, as an integral part of any human decision, and as a clear characteristic of any legal or medical diagnosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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Savulescu, Julian (1994-01)This paper examines how decisions to limit treatment to critically ill patients under uncertainty can be made rationally. Expected utility theory offers one way of making rational decisions under uncertainty. One problem ...