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Science, Politics, and Values: The Politicization of Professional Practice Guidelines

Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 301, No. 6, pp. 665-667, 2009

Georgetown University O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law Scholarship Paper No. 20

5 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2009  

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

John Kraemer

Georgetown University Law Center; Georgetown University - School of Nursing & Health Studies

Date Written: March 18, 2009

Abstract

The Connecticut Attorney General's recent allegations that the Infectious Disease Society of America violated antitrust law through its treatment guidelines for Lyme disease were neither based in sound science or appropriate legal judgment. Strong scientific evidence favors IDSA's position that chronic infection with the etiologic agent of Lyme disease does not occur in the absence of objective signs of ongoing infection and that long-term antibiotic use to treat dubious infection, recommended in the quasi-scientific guidelines put forth by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), are of no benefit. In siding with ILADS and other chronic Lyme disease advocates, ultimately forcing IDSA to settle lest it expend exorbitant legal costs, the attorney general abused science and his public trust. This case exemplifies the politicization of health policy and confuses the relative spheres inhabited by normative discourse and scientific inquiry. Science should provide the evidentiary base for normative discussions, and values and politics will always be important in deciding how science is applied for human benefit. But a wall of separation is needed between science, values, and politics, as medical science, and the patients who depend on it, is too important for political distortion.

Keywords: public health, health policy

Suggested Citation

Gostin, Lawrence O. and Kraemer, John, Science, Politics, and Values: The Politicization of Professional Practice Guidelines (March 18, 2009). Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 301, No. 6, pp. 665-667, 2009; Georgetown University O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law Scholarship Paper No. 20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1364445

Lawrence Gostin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

John Kraemer

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Georgetown University - School of Nursing & Health Studies ( email )

3700 Reservoir Road
Washington, DC 20057-1107
United States

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