Conflicts of interest.
The "no past crimes evidence" rule to which Jansen and Sulmasy refer in support of their argument that "more information is not always better" is a rule that constrains the state in criminal proceedings. Any analogy to information about bioethicists' conflicts of interest is, I hope, inapt.
Southern Illinois University
Jansen and Sulmasy reply:
Bethany Spielman's letter is puzzling. She contests neither the conclusion nor any of the arguments in our paper. Instead, she asserts that we "mischaracterize" bioethics expert testimony before juries. We claimed while it is possible that some members of a jury may be able to assess the claims of a bioethicist critically, it is likely that many members of a jury will not have the analytical skill or the motivation to reflect carefully on the rational value of the claims being presented. For this reason, we conceded, there is a need for members of a jury to be informed of any relationships, financial or otherwise, that might substantially compromise the judgment of the bioethicist. We stand by this characterization. It is, of course, fully compatible with Spielman's claim that juries should be encouraged to assess the rational value of the claims presented to them. Indeed, to the extent that we have good reason to have confidence in the ability of juries to do so, then the case for disclosing conflicts of interest in this context collapses.
Spielman asserts that the "no past crimes" rule is "inapt" as an analogy to bioethicists' conflict of interest. What we said was that "certain kinds of information about the background of defendants should be withheld from juries. This information, while accurate, can distort a jury's judgment." These claims are plainly true, and they illustrate the general point that having more information does not always improve our ability to make good judgments. The failure to appreciate this important point helps account for the current uncritical enthusiasm for extending disclosure requirements to all contexts in bioethics.
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|Publication:||The Hastings Center Report|
|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2003|
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