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There is an ongoing tension between the ethics and epistemology of placebocontrolled trials (PCTs). The clinicians’ moral duty to provide the best available care seems to preclude using placebo controls when there is an established effective treatment. Yet the Declaration of Helsinki appeals to ‘methodological and scientific’ reasons to justify using placebo controls even if there is an established therapy. In this session we will examine the justifications for the claim that placebo controlled trials enjoy methodological benefits over and above trials that used established therapies as controls.

Core reading: Howick J (2009). Questioning the Methodologic Superiority of ‘Placebo’ Over ‘Active’ Controlled Trials. American Journal of Bioethics 9(9):34-48. doi: 10.1080/15265160903090041. PMID: 19998192

Part of the Topics in the Philosophy of Medicine seminar series:

We will explore topics that are both philosophically interesting, and also relevant to medical research or practice, and the core readings draw on the philosophical as well as the medical literature. We begin with some background linking general epistemological concepts with current topics in philosophy of medicine. We then move on to examine the specific problems of the epistemological role of randomization, causal inference in clinical trials, the role of mechanisms as evidence, the epistemological (and ethical) role of placebo controls, and whether Evidence-Based Medicine as a movement is justified.

No booking required.

For enquires contact Jeremy Howick.

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