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Science and proven experience: a Swedish variety of evidence-based medicine and a way to better risk analysis?


A key question for evidence-based medicine (EBM) is how best to model the way in which EBM should ‘[integrate] individual clinical expertise and the best external evidence’. We argue that the formulations and models available in the literature today are modest variations on a common theme and face very similar problems when it comes to risk analysis, which is here understood as a decision procedure comprising a factual assessment of risk, the risk assessment, and the decision what to do based on this assessment, the risk management. Both the early and updated models of evidence-based clinical decisions presented in the writings of Haynes, Devereaux and Guyatt assume that EBM consists of, among other things, evidence from clinical research together with information about patients’ values and clinical expertise. On this A-view, EBM describes all that goes on in a specific justifiable medical decision. There is, however, an alternative interpretation of EBM, the B-view, in which EBM describes just one component of the decision situation (a component usually based on evidence from clinical research) and in which, together with other types of evidence, EBM leads to a justifiable clincial decision but does not describe the decision itself. This B-view is inspired by a 100-years older version of EBM, a Swedish standard requiring medical decision-making, professional risk-taking and practice to be in accordance with ‘science and proven experience’ (VBE). In the paper, we outline how the Swedish concept leads to an improved understanding of the way in which scientific evidence and clinical experience can and cannot be integrated in light of EBM. How scientific evidence and clinical experience is integrated influences both the way we do risk assessment and risk management. In addition, the paper sketches the as yet unexplored historical background to VBE and EBM.

Keywords: Science and proven experience,  evidence-based medicine,  risk analysis, risk management, philosophy of risk


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