Mark R. Tonelli
University of Washington
Devora Shapiro
Southern Oregon University
Within the evidence-based medicine construct, clinical expertise is acknowledged to be both derived from primary experience and necessary for optimal medical practice. Primary experience in medical practice, however, remains undervalued. Clinicians’ primary experience tends to be dismissed by EBM as unsystematic or anecdotal, a source of bias rather than knowledge, never serving as the “best” evidence to support a clinical decision. The position that clinical expertise is necessary but that primary experience is untrustworthy in clinical decision-making is epistemically incoherent. Here we argue for the value and utility of knowledge gained from primary experience for the practice of medicine. Primary experience provides knowledge necessary to diagnose, treat, and assess response in individual patients. Hierarchies of evidence, when advanced as guides for clinical decisions, mistake the relationship between propositional and experiential knowledge. We argue that primary experience represents a kind of medical knowledge distinct from the propositional knowledge produced by clinical research, both of which are crucial to determining the best diagnosis and course of action for particular patients.
Keywords Experiential Knowledge  Medical Epistemology  Decision-making
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DOI 10.1007/s11017-020-09521-0
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The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.

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