PhilSci Archive

What are Side Effects?

Due, Austin (2023) What are Side Effects? European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 13 (1). ISSN 1879-4912


Download (544kB) | Preview


Side effects are ubiquitous in medicine and they often play a role in treatment decisions for patients and clinicians alike. Philosophers and health researchers often use side effects to illustrate issues with contemporary medical research and practice. However, technical definitions of ‘side effect’ differ among health authorities. Thus, determining the side effects of an intervention can differ depending on whose definition we assume. Here I review some of the common definitions of side effect and highlight their issues. In response, I offer an account of side effects as jointly (i) unintended and (ii) effects due to the causal capacities or invariances of an intervention. I discuss (i) by examining the intentions or reasons behind therapeutic interventions, and I discuss (ii) by appealing to a manipulationist model of causation. The analysis here highlights that side effects are conceptually distinct from related outcomes like adverse events, adverse drug reactions, and placebo effects. The analysis also allows for reflection on the utility of ‘side effect’ as a technical term in medical research and practice.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Due, Austinaud25@pitt.edu0000-0002-6107-3970
Keywords: Side effects; Adverse events; Adverse drug reactions; Placebo effects; Pharmaceuticals
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Medicine
Depositing User: A Due
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2023 13:09
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2023 13:09
Item ID: 21885
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Medicine
Date: 2023
Volume: 13
Number: 1
ISSN: 1879-4912

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item