Perspectives on Evidence-Based Healthcare for Women

Journal of Women's Health 19 (7):1235-1238 (2010)
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We live in an age of evidence-based healthcare, where the concept of evidence has been avidly and often uncritically embraced as a symbol of legitimacy, truth, and justice. By letting the evidence dictate healthcare decision making from the bedside to the policy level, the normative claims that inform decision making appear to be negotiated fairly—without subjectivity, prejudice, or bias. Thus, the term ‘‘evidence-based’’ is typically read in the health sciences as the empirically adequate standard of reasonable practice and a means for increasing certainty. Supporters believe that evidence-based medicine (EBM) can introduce rational order to the deliberative processes of healthcare decision making. It is perhaps puzzling, then, to come across critical perspectives (typically arising from the humanities and the more theory-driven social sciences) raising concerns about a seeming technogovernance being introduced by this deferral to the evidence where power interests can be obfuscated by way of technical resolve. The critics holding this minority view argue that technological solutions to problems of knowledge and practice cannot replace medicine’s normative content. Against EBM’s democratic leanings toward transparency and accountability, medical criteria alone cannot decide valueladen ethically charged decisions. This paper attempts to explain and evaluate this important debate in the philosophy of medicine, focusing specifically on the dispute over 'evidence-based women's health'.
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