LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 13

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q13
Necessary assumption +NA
+Medium 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Necessary Assumption question.

The stimulus says that a new screening test detects certain polyps at such an early stage that it is generally unclear whether the polyps are malignant. But the risk that a polyp might be malignant leads doctors, in most cases, to have such polyps surgically removed, which is a dangerous process. Yet some of those polyps turn out not to be malignant. All of this is the premise and we have the conclusion in the following sentence. Thus, the new screening test can prompt dangerous operations that are not actually medically necessary.

This is a classic example of a bridging Necessary Assumption question. The first part of the conclusion is fine. Because the new screening test is what leads doctors to have polyps surgically removed, “prompting” is weak enough of a claim to be supported by the premise. But look at the part of the conclusion that says these operations are “not medically necessary.” What do we know about what is or is not medically necessary? This is the bit that needs to be bridged. The starting point of the bridge is the fact that some polyps turn out not to be malignant, and the end of the bridge is that these had better not be medically necessary.

Correct Answer Choice (B) acts as this bridge. It says surgical removal of nonmalignant polyps detected by the new screening test is not always medically necessary. This has to be true. Imagine if (B) were false and surgical removal of nonmalignant polyps was always necessary. Then this argument completely fails. In other words, it must be true that removing nonmalignant polyps sometimes is not necessary. That is the bare minimum in order for the premise to have any chance of supporting the conclusion.

Answer Choice (A) says a surgical operation that is dangerous is ethically justified only for treating a medical condition that is more dangerous. You should lose interest as soon as you see “ethically justified” because the argument here is not one of ethics. It is about whether the operations are necessary or not. Even if we assume that the medical condition is not more dangerous than the operation itself, the operation would then not be ethically justified since we failed the necessary condition. But so what? Whether this is ethical is not what the conclusion is arguing for.

Answer Choice (C) says if the new screening test encourages medically unnecessary operations, then probably it either should not be used or its use should be modified. I lost interest in the first half of (C), because again, the researcher tries to argue that the test is not medically necessary. We are trying to build a bridge from her premises to that conclusion, but (C) is assuming that the conclusion is already proven and building a bridge from the conclusion to some new territory.

Answer Choice (D) says a polyp detected by the new screening test should be surgically removed if it is malignant. Of course, remove it if it is malignant. This argument is about polyps that we do not yet know to be malignant. (D) is just giving us obvious instructions.

Answer Choice (E) says the screening test is medically useful only when it detects a polyp that requires treatment. Remember how we did not care whether an operation was ethically justified in (A)? Similarly, in (E), we do not care whether a screening test is medically useful. In addition, the stimulus does not tell us which polyps require treatment. So (E) is laying out a necessary condition that itself requires a bridge (e.g., polyps at risk of malignancy require treatment) in order to even connect to the stimulus. And even if you fail this necessary condition, at best, you find out that the screening test was not medically useful.

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