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Evidence based medicine guidelines: a solution to rationing or politics disguised as science?
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  1. S I Saarni1,
  2. H A Gylling2
  1. 1National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Moral and Social Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to:
 S Saarni
 National Public Health Institute, Department of Mental Health and Alcohol Research, Mannerheimintie 166, 00300 Helsinki, Finland; samuli.saarnihelsinki.fi

Abstract

“Evidence based medicine” (EBM) is often seen as a scientific tool for quality improvement, even though its application requires the combination of scientific facts with value judgments and the costing of different treatments. How this is done depends on whether we approach the problem from the perspective of individual patients, doctors, or public health administrators. Evidence based medicine exerts a fundamental influence on certain key aspects of medical professionalism. Since, when clinical practice guidelines are created, costs affect the content of EBM, EBM inevitably becomes a form of rationing and adopts a public health point of view. This challenges traditional professionalism in much the same way as managed care has done in the US. Here we chart some of these major philosophical issues and show why simple solutions cannot be found. The profession needs to pay more attention to different uses of EBM in order to preserve the good aspects of professionalism.

  • evidence based medicine
  • guidelines
  • rationing
  • medical professionalism
  • medical ethics

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Footnotes

  • SS has received a grant from the Ahokas Foundation, Finland.

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