So-Called "Clinical Equipoise" and the Argument From Design
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2007 March-April; 32(2): 135-150
In this article, I review and expand upon arguments showing that Freedman's so-called "clinical equipoise" criterion cannot serve as an appropriate guide and justification for the moral legitimacy of carrying out randomized clinical trials. At the same time, I try to explain why this approach has been given so much credence despite compelling arguments against it, including the fact that Freedman's original discussion framed the issues in a misleading way, making certain things invisible: Clinical equipoise is conflated with community equipoise, and several versions of each are also conflated. But a misleading impression is given that, rather than distinct criteria being arbitrarily conflated, a puzzle is solved and a number of features unified. Various issues are pushed under the rug, hiding flaws of the "clinical equipoise" approach and thus deceiving us into thinking that we have a solution when we do not. Particularly significant is the ignoring of the crucial distinction between the individual patient decision and the policy decision.
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Gifford, Fred (2000-08)