Should Committees That Write Guidelines and Recommendations Publish Dissenting Opinions?

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Abstract

Medical guidelines tend to convey a sense of unanimity of opinion that may not reflect the deliberations of the experts who wrote them. Using, as an example, an analysis of the recently published recommendations on administering pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to adults, the present article raises the question of whether official recommendations and guidelines should include dissenting opinions, analogous to decisions issued by the US Supreme Court. The argument that such a policy would lead to confusion in our profession is addressed in 2 ways: (1) the current system, in which different professional societies publish conflicting recommendations, as in the case of breast or prostate cancer screening, can be far more confusing, and (2) in the long run, greater transparency will lead to more thoughtful and higher-quality medical care. Perhaps the most important point of this paper is the suggestion that it is far better to bring dissent into the recommendation process than to act as if it is not there.

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