Health Care Analysis 10 (3):319-328 (2002)

It is important and urgent to question therelationship between evidence-based medicineand power shifts in health care systems.Although definitions of EBM are phrased as ascientific approach to medicine, EBM is anormative concept: it aims to improve medicineand health care. Both proponents and opponentsuse a normative concept. More particularly,they provide particular views on positions,responsibilities, possibilities, norms andrelationships between professionals, patientgroups, governments and other parties in healthcare and society. From this perspective, wewant to analyse the role of EBM in modernwestern societies. By using citizenshiptheory, we will argue that the role of EBM isnot fixed but depends on the relation betweenstate and society. We will first analyse thefundamental change in western societies duringthe past decades, from modern to post-modernsocieties. Then, we will elaborate a fourfoldmodel of possible relationships between stateand society, and discuss the issue of how EBM mayfit in, by giving some examples of the practiceof EBM in different European countries. On thisbasis, we conclude to consider EBM as a publicforum where proponents and opponents of EBMdiscuss diverse and possibly conflicting waysof changing medicine, health care, and healthpolicy. This requires the incorporation of theperspective of citizens and their socialnetworks, professionals with practical andtacit knowledge, and diverse public views onwhat is regarded as `a good life'. Inasmuch asEBM is expected to be practically relevant, itought to be tied to rather than separated fromthe normative world of emancipated patients anddiverse health care practices. Proponents andopponents of EBM should be prepared to defendthe normative claims and power effects that areinherently tied to any presentation ofevidence
Keywords Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)  power shifts  health care systems
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DOI 10.1023/A:1022908025898
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