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The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law

Volume 11, Issue 2, April 2011

Barbara Osimani, Federica Russo, Jon Williamson
Pages 1-24
DOI: 10.5840/jpsl20111122

Scientific Evidence and the Law
An Objective Bayesian Formalization of the Precautionary Principle in Pharmaceutical Regulation

The paper considers the legal tools that have been developed in German pharmaceutical regulation as a result of the precautionary attitude inaugurated by the Contergan decision (1970). These tools are (i) the notion of “well-founded suspicion”, which attenuates the requirements for safety intervention by relaxing the requirement of a proved causal connection between danger and source, and the introduction of (ii) the reversal of proof burden in liability norms. The paper focuses on the first and proposes seeing the precautionary principle as an instance of the requirement that one should maximise expected utility. In order to maximise expected utility certain probabilities are required and it is argued that objective Bayesianism offers the most plausible means to determine the optimal decision in cases where evidence supports diverging choices.

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