Science, Politics, and Values: The Politicization of Professional Practice Guidelines
Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 301, No. 6, pp. 665-667, 2009
5 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2009
Date Written: March 18, 2009
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
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