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November 20, 1996

Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case

Author Affiliations

Virginia Mason Clinic Seattle, Wash

JAMA. 1996;276(19):1604. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540190076036

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Science on Trial is an account of the breast implant controversy. It relates the events that led to the 1992 decision by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler to ban siliconegel—filled breast implants. It includes accounts of the hysteria that followed and the litigation that eventually led to the largest class action settlement in the history of trial courts. However, the focus of the book is really on what the author, Marcia Angell, MD, believes was missing from this controversy: attention to and respect for scientific evidence as a means to reach the truth.

Angell describes the litigation surrounding breast implants from the perspective of a physician dedicated to the use of the scientific method. As executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, she has followed the events and dealt directly with pertinent studies. Her concern is that greed and emotion, not scientific evidence, have become the