The Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome: A Case Study in Relative Risk and Specific Causation

Posted: 14 Aug 2001

See all articles by David A. Freedman

David A. Freedman

University of California, Berkeley

Philip B. Stark

University of California, Berkeley

Abstract

Epidemiologic methods were developed to prove general causation: identifying exposures that increase the risk of particular diseases. Courts often are more interested in specific causation: on balance of probabilities, was the plaintiff's disease caused by exposure to the agent in question? Some authorities have suggested that a relative risk greater than 2.0 meets the standard of proof for specific causation. Such a definite criterion is appealing, but there are difficulties. Bias and confounding are well-known problems; individual differences must be considered too. The issues are explored in the context of the swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The conclusion: there is a considerable gap between relative risks and proof of specific causation.

Suggested Citation

Freedman, David A. and Stark, Philip B., The Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome: A Case Study in Relative Risk and Specific Causation. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=279873

David A. Freedman (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

Department of Statistics
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-2781 (Phone)

Philip B. Stark

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

Department of Statistics
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-2781 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
1,810
PlumX Metrics