LSAT 91 – Section 2 – Question 07

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT91 S2 Q07
Weaken +Weak
+Easiest 145.724 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Weaken question.

The ethicist begins her argument with a general rule: hospital staff must not deceive patients about their medical treatment. Then she talks about a specific case. Dr. Faris told a patient that medication A would help him sleep even though medication A has no known sleep-inducing properties. The ethicist then concludes that Dr. Faris has violated the rule.

She does concede the point that after taking medication A, the patient's sleep did in fact improve. That's a concession point because it doesn't help her argument.

This argument should remind you of PSA questions because those are the questions where we most frequently encounter general rules applied to specific cases. And if you were to treat this as a PSA question, where would you supply the missing assumption bridge? It has to be a bridge linking Dr. Faris's actions to deceiving the patient. If Dr. Faris's actions constitute deception, then he did violate the rule. Otherwise, he didn't.

So do they constitute deception? That depends on whether he knew medication A would help the patient sleep. If he knew it would, then he wasn’t trying to deceive the patient, he was just trying to be a doctor. If he knew it wouldn't, then he was trying to deceive the patient. The ethicist assumes that he knew it wouldn’t because medication A has no known sleep-inducing properties.

But, as the ethicist concedes, medication A did in fact help the patient sleep. So was that just a coincidence or is there something else going on? Is it possible for a medication with no known sleep-inducing properties to nonetheless help a patient sleep?

Correct Answer Choice (C) tells us that indeed it is possible. It says that medication A is a pain reliever that can indirectly lead to sleep due to a reduction in the patient's discomfort. This is a crucial clarification of the causal relationship between medication A and sleep. It respects what the premises said about medication A, that it has no known sleep-inducing properties. That's true. It doesn't directly cause sleep. But it indirectly causes sleep by reducing pain, which reduces discomfort, which facilitates sleep. Given what (C) reveals about medication A, the ethicist's argument falls apart. It seems far less likely now that Dr. Faris deceived his patient with the claim that medication A would help him sleep. Rather, it seems far more plausible that Dr. Faris knew that reducing pain would facilitate sleep.

Given what you know about the placebo effect, can you imagine a different formulation of (C) such that it would still be correct? It could go something like this: sleep, like pain reduction, is highly susceptible to the placebo effect and nearly all patients who are told that they are receiving a substance that would help them sleep will experience improved sleep regardless of whether that substance itself induces sleep. This answer would be very similar to the actual answer (C) because a placebo effect is simply one kind of indirect causal chain. The administration of the placebo causes internal chemical reactions in the body that cause sleep.

Answer Choice (A) says Dr. Faris was aware that medication A had no known sleep-inducing properties. This would strengthen the argument. The reason is because of an implicit requirement of the rule. Deception is an intentional act. An intent to deceive requires factual knowledge about the medication’s lack of sleep-inducing properties. But as we already discussed above, (A) wouldn’t strengthen the argument by much since it’s still possible that Dr. Faris knew that medication A would only indirectly help the patient sleep. So while (A) might be a correct answer for a Necessary Assumption question, it wouldn't be the correct answer choice for a PSA question.

Answer Choice (B) says a committee at the hospital is currently considering revisions to the hospital's ethics code. Who cares? (B) may as well have told us that the committee is considering what they're going to order for lunch. The ethics code is what it is regardless of what the committee is considering. We just have to answer the question of whether Dr. Faris violated the code as it currently is. That answer does not depend on what the committee ultimately decides to do with the code.

Answer Choice (D) says several other members of the hospital staff prescribed medication A to patients who have trouble sleeping. This answer is reminiscent of many wrong answers in RRE questions. There, a recurring type of wrong answer is one that piles on additional phenomena in need of an explanation, rather than supplying the explanation. Do you see how this is similar? Our concern coming into the answers was whether Dr. Faris is in violation of the ethics code for having prescribed medication A. (D) doesn't answer that question. (D) just adds to the problem. Now I'm wondering whether these other members of the hospital staff are also in violation of the ethics code.

I suspect (D) might be baiting us to assume that if a sufficient number of people do a thing, then that thing isn’t wrong. But that’s a terrible assumption.

Answer Choice (E) says Dr. Faris knew that the patient was not taking any other medication that has sleep-inducing properties. This is irrelevant because the argument never assumed anything about Dr. Faris's knowledge of whether the patient was already taking, say, melatonin or Ambien. The argument does assume that Dr. Faris knew that medication A has no known sleep-inducing properties, as we discussed in (A), and that Dr. Faris knew that medication A also wouldn't indirectly facilitate sleep. If those two assumptions can be established, then it does look like Dr. Faris has violated this specific ethics code.

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