Center for Ethics Holds Lecture on Evidence–Based Health Care

“I have bated you all with this title,” Joshua Thomas, Ph.D. said to an audience of faculty and students in his lecture on evidence-based health care and its attack on the self last Wednesday.

Evidence-based health care, also referred to as the outcomes movement, emphasizes the use of empirical evidence gained from trial research in order to make the best medical decisions possible.

“Up until two years ago I was critical of evidence-based healthcare for a lot of the same reasons that the soft critics have,” Thomas said. “But through research I came to find that that view didn’t have enough warrant.”

Critics of the movement argue that it fails to recognize the patient as the complex self he or she is and instead reduces the patient to a scientific entity. Some critics also fear that when put into practice physicians will only treat the ailment at hand and not the patient.

Thomas, who holds a doctorate in theological studies, claims that the outcomes movement is only a method and not a doctrine. He also said that evidence-based health care is actively investigating how selfhood influences health, which undermines critics’ claims.

In speaking, Thomas’s goal was to give students a “nuanced view of the movement or even just an awareness that there are these debates about evidence-based health care and to be able to make more informed choices,” Thomas said.

This was also the objective of the Manhattan College Center for Ethics which organized the event.

With occasions such as these, the center wanted to pick a topic that will be interesting to a broad constituency of people.

“I’m a philosopher but I also wanted to bring somebody in who could speak to a non-philosophical audience about manners of values,” Eion O’Connell, Ph.D. and assistant professor of philosophy, said.

Evidence-based health care proves to be more than just a global issue as it can be linked to the college’s Lasallian mission. This mission encourages a “person-centered education and thinking about people not only as numbers or inputs and outputs but as people,” O’Connell said.

Thomas referred to this notion by explaining how evidence-based health care is sensitive to those issues of human circumstances and values, whereas opponents may think otherwise.

Students in attendance found the lecture to be informative for increasing their awareness of the evidence-based health care debate.

“Any of these presentations are important for us to attend because college is about learning, and not just about your major but life in general,” sophomore Melissa Brenner said.

“Attending lectures like this can often open our eyes to topics we didn’t even know we were interested in,” Brenner said.