Clinical Equipoise and Moral Leeway: An Epistemological Stance

Daniele Chiffi*, Ahti Veikko Pietarinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical equipoise (CE) has been proposed as an ethical principle relating uncertainty and moral leeway in clinical research. Although CE has traditionally been indicated as a necessary condition for a morally justified introduction of a new RCT, questions related to the interpretation of this principle remain woefully open. Recent proposals to rehabilitate CE have divided the bioethical community on its ethical merits. This paper presents a new argument that brings out the epistemological difficulties we encounter in justifying CE as a principle to connect uncertainty and moral leeway in clinical ethics. The argument proposes, first, that the methodology of hypothetical retrospection (HR) is applicable to the RCT design and that it can accommodate uncertainty. As currently understood, however, HR should give up its reliance on the assumption of uncertainty transduction, because the latter assumes the principle of indifference, which does not accommodate uncertainty in the right way. The same principle is then seen to distort also the received interpretations of CE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-456
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • Clinical equipoise
  • Hypothetical retrospection
  • Principle of indifference
  • Uncertainty transduction


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