Data and Safety Monitoring Board and the Ratio Decidendi of the Trial

Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law 15:1-26 (2015)
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Decision-making by a Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) regarding clinical trial conduct and termination is intricate and largely limited by cases and rules. Decision-making by legal jury is also intricate and largely constrained by cases and rules. In this paper, I argue by analogy that legal decision-making, which strives for a balance between competing demands of conservatism and innovation, supplies a good basis to the logic behind DSMB decision-making. Using the doctrine of precedents in legal reasoning as my central analog will lead us to a decision-theoretic analogy for much more systematic documentation of decisions in clinical trials. My conclusion is twofold: every DSMB decision should articulate a clear general principle (a ratio decidendi) that gives reason for the decision; and all such decisions should be made public. I use Bartha’s (2010) theory of analogical arguments to both frame and assess my argument by analogy.

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Roger Stanev
University of Ottawa


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