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December 22, 1993

Daubert v Merrell Dow: The Supreme Court Tackles Scientific Evidence in the Courtroom

JAMA. 1993;270(24):2964-2967. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510240076036

ON JUNE 28, 1993, the US Supreme Court handed down a decision that, in the words of one commentator, "could affect almost every piece of litigation in the Federal courts from this point forward."1 The decision in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals2 sets forth criteria that federal courts must follow in admitting scientific evidence or excluding it from consideration by juries. While the decision will not apply directly to state courts, states are likely to look to the High Court for guidance. This article will analyze the decision and discuss its implications for medicine, medical publishing, and expert testimony.

THE CASE  The drug for morning sickness, Bendectin (doxylamine), was driven off the market in 1983 by the pressure of lawsuits asserting that it caused birth defects. Before Bendectin was taken off the market, millions of women had used it.3 Of 30 published epidemiologic studies involving over 130