Abstract

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.

You do not currently have access to this article.