How can Feminist Theories of Evidence Assist Clinical Reasoning and Decision-Making?

Social Epistemology (TBA):1-28 (2013)
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Abstract

While most of healthcare research and practice fully endorses evidence-based healthcare, a minority view borrows popular themes from philosophy of science like underdetermination and value-ladenness to question the legitimacy of the evidence-based movement’s philosophical underpinnings. While the feminist origins go unacknowledged, those critics adopt a feminist reading of the “gap argument” to challenge the perceived objectivism of evidence-based practice. From there, the critics seem to despair over the “subjective elements” that values introduce to clinical reasoning, demonstrating that they do not subscribe to feminist science studies’ normative program——where contextual values can enable good science and justified decisions. In this paper, I investigate why it is that the critics of evidence-based medicine adopt feminist science’s characterization of the problem but resist the productive solutions offered by those same theorists. I suggest that the common feminist empiricist appeal to idealized epistemic communities is impractical for those working within the current biomedical context and instead offer an alternate stream of feminist research into the empirical content of values (found in the work of Elizabeth Anderson and Sharyn Clough) as a more helpful recourse for facilitating the important task of legitimate and justified clinical decision-making. I use a case study on clinical decision-making to illustrate the fruitfulness of the latter feminist empiricist framework. See response by Sharyn Clough: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1aN See reply by Maya Goldenberg: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1oY

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Maya J. Goldenberg
University of Guelph

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