Managing Scientific Uncertainty in Medical Decision Making: The Case of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
Political Science and International Affairs
This article explores the question of how scientific uncertainty can be managed in medical decision making using the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as a case study. It concludes that where a high degree of technical consensus exists about the evidence and data, decision makers act according to a clear decision rule. If a high degree of technical consensus does not exist and uncertainty abounds, the decision will be based on a variety of criteria, including readily available resources, decision-process constraints, and the available knowledge base, among other things. Decision makers employ a variety of heuristic devices and techniques, thereby employing a pragmatic approach to uncertainty in medical decision making. The article concludes with recommendations for managing scientific uncertainty in medical decision making.