Research Article

Using a mock trial to make a difficult clinical decision.

BMJ 1992; 305 doi: (Published 21 November 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;305:1284
  1. R. Smith
  1. British Medical Journal, London.


    Many clinical decisions have to be taken with inadequate scientific information. Reaching a consensus among experts has been tried as one response to this problem. Another, described here, is to use legal process to dissect a difficult question. In this case a mock trial--using barristers, expert witnesses, and a jury--was conducted on whether bone marrow transplantation should be offered to all children with symptomatic sickle cell disease. Transplantation seems to offer about a 90% cure rate for a condition that may kill 15% of children before they reach 20. But transplantation carries a 10% risk of death or severe disability, and doctors cannot predict which children will suffer severely from their sickle cell disease and which will suffer little or nothing. The jury eventually reached a majority decision that transplantation should not be offered now to all symptomatic children.