'All the King's horses . . .’: the problematical fate of born-again evidence-based medicine: commentary on Greenhalgh, T., Snow, R., Ryan, S., Rees, S., and Salisbury, H. (2015) six 'biases' against patients and carers in evidence-based medicine. BioMed Central Medicine, 13:200

J Eval Clin Pract. 2015 Dec;21(6):E1-10. doi: 10.1111/jep.12492.


The phrase ‘evidence-based medicine (EBM)’ is being used by both EBM advocates and adversaries to broadly denote the production and use of clinical research throughout the healthcare system. Recently, this trend was joined by a call for a general expansion and rebirth of EBM to encompass a diverse range of healthcare activities otherwise corresponding to person-centred care. The call asserts that EBM is to blame for anti-patient biases within clinical practice and in policy and public health domains. Effective critique of either EBM or of the healthcare system requires that EBM itself be properly identified as a research literacy movement that grew out of clinical epidemiology of the 1970’s and 1980’s. We demonstrate the ineffectiveness of inappropriately targeted critiques of healthcare under the banner of born-again EBM.We identify the strengths and weaknesses of EBM as an educational movement drawing on the concept of literacy associated with the Brazilian educator Paolo Freire. We consider the relationship of EBM to clinical epidemiology and conclude that it cannot fruitfully divorce itself from the latter.We briefly consider existing precedents for philosophically sound conceptual platforms for advocacy of person-centred healthcare and broad based critique of the healthcare system including relationship-centred care. We conclude that traditional EBM, as a framework for research literacy training of both clinicians and policy makers, must continue to play a subsidiary role within an expanding patient-centred healthcare system and that advocacy efforts on behalf of patient voice and engagement are best pursued unencumbered by subsidiary agendas.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Evidence-Based Practice / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*