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Ethics and epistemology of accurate prediction in clinical research
  1. Spencer Phillips Hey
  1. Correspondence to Dr Spencer Phillips Hey, Studies of Translation, Ethics, and Medicine (STREAM) Research Group, Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1X1; spencer.hey{at}


All major research ethics policies assert that the ethical review of clinical trial protocols should include a systematic assessment of risks and benefits. But despite this policy, protocols do not typically contain explicit probability statements about the likely risks or benefits involved in the proposed research. In this essay, I articulate a range of ethical and epistemic advantages that explicit forecasting would offer to the health research enterprise. I then consider how some particular confidence levels may come into conflict with the principles of ethical research.

  • Research Ethics
  • Philosophy of Medicine
  • Clinical trials

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