On the Utility and Distinctness of the Concept of Behavioral Equipoise

American Journal of Bioethics 11 (2):9-10 (2011)
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In their paper, “Behavioral Equipoise: A Way to Resolve Ethical Stalemates in Clinical Research, “ Peter Ubel and Robert Silbergleit (2011) propose that we adopt another principle, the principle of behavioral equipoise, whereby RCTs are also morally justified in cases where they are expected to address the controversy, disagreement, or behavioral resistance surrounding a particular treatment. Adopting this ethical standard would allow for research to move forward and, as a result, for the resolution of stalemates between clinicians who hold opposing views. There are two points that I would like to make in terms of objections to Ubel and Silbergleit’s argument, and then I want to emphasize what I think is particularly valuable about their argument. First, I dispute the move from the claim that the principle of clinical equipoise creates (or does not resolve) stalemates to the conclusion that adopting the principle of behavioral equipoise would dissolve stalemates. My second objection concerns the distinctness of the concept of behavioral equipoise fromthe concept of clinical equipoise. That said, I do think that Ubel and Silbergleit make an important point, and that is that one cause of equipoise is the behavioral and psychological factors of those responding to data.



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Jennifer Swindell Blumenthal-Barby
Baylor College of Medicine

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