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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Nancy Cartwright

Cartwright, N. (2011). A philosopher's view of the long road from RCTs to effectiveness. The Lancet 377(9775): 1400-1401.

Author(s) from Durham


For evidence-based practice and policy, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are the current gold standard. But exactly why? We know that RCTs do not, without a series of strong assumptions, warrant predictions about what happens in practice. But just what are these assumptions? I maintain that, from a philosophical stance, answers to both questions are obscured because we don't attend to what causal claims say. Causal claims entering evidence-based medicine at different points say different things and, I would suggest, failure to attend to these differences makes much current guidance about evidence for medical and social policy misleading.