Expert Consensus

Authored by: Miriam Solomon

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846791
eBook ISBN: 9781315720739
Adobe ISBN: 9781317519850


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“Expert consensus” is a shorthand way of referring to the agreement of experts on a matter about which they have expertise. The practice of medicine involves frequent reliance—by clinicians, patients, and others—on expert consensus. Sometimes that consensus is informal (achieved through the usual processes of research and clinical practice) and sometimes formal (developed at a medical consensus conference). An example of an informal consensus is, “The experts (pediatric pulmonologists) agree that early aggressive treatment of cystic fibrosis is best.” An example of a formal consensus is, “The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends that airway clearance therapy be increased as part of the treatment of an acute exacerbation of pulmonary disease.” The goal of this chapter is to investigate the social epistemology of expert consensus in medical contexts. Why do we rely on expert consensus and under what circumstances (if any) is it appropriate to challenge it?

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