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Legal interpretation of epidemiologic studies

Posted on:3/24/2006
In United States law, epidemiology alone cannot prove that a causal association does not exist in general.



In United States law, epidemiology alone cannot prove that a causal association does not exist in general. Conversely, it can be (and is in some circumstances) taken by US courts, in an individual case, to justify an inference that a causal association does exist, based upon a balance of probability. Strictly speaking, epidemiology can only go to prove that an agent could have caused but not that, in any particular case, it did cause: "Epidemiology is concerned with the incidence of disease in populations and does not address the question of the cause of an individual’s disease. This question, sometimes referred to as specific causation, is beyond the domain of the science of epidemiology. Epidemiology has its limits at the point where an inference is made that the relationship between an agent and a disease is causal (general causation) and where the magnitude of excess risk attributed to the agent has been determined; that is, epidemiology addresses whether an agent can cause a disease, not whether an agent did cause a specific plaintiff’s disease."

 


  
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