by Elena Rocca
Our friend and collaborator Roger Kerry co-authored the article “Time, space and form: Necessary for causation in health, disease and intervention?” published in this month’s issue of the journal Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy.
The article explores the causative interaction between disease and intervention, and tries to identify which factors are necessary for such interaction. Disease and intervention are seen as two independent causative pathways that need to converge. For this purpose, the authors focus on the mechanistic causal pathways of disease and intervention, arguing that they must share not only time and space, but also form. The two pathways can only interact at the level where they have common form.
For example, “UV light” is the common form between the targeted process “sunburn” and the intervention “sunscreen application”. Similarly, “bacteria” are the common form between the targeted process “bacterial infection” and the intervention “antibiotics”. The authors offer a more general example as well: “forces” is the common form between the target process “person falling” and the intervention “parachute”.
The authors conclude that this improved conceptualization might help the analysis of mechanistic causal pathways of disease and cure, therefore facilitating both clinical work and medical research.
Roger is associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is also a qualified Chartered Physioterapist, philosophy of science in training, and author of the blog Evidence about the nature of causation in the health sciences.