Tibbs and the precautionary principle
When a course of action might have a potentially serious impact, one approach is to adopt the precautionary principle
Nan O’s cat, Tibbs, is poorly. Could her new ‘FelineFine’ supplement be to blame? Should Nan O follow the precautionary principle and stop using it, just in case?
Rather than assuming something is safe until proven otherwise, the precautionary principle argues the opposite – that something should be considered potentially harmful unless shown to be safe.
Although the precautionary principle aims to protect us against danger, an excessively ‘safety-first’ approach may have its own drawbacks. For example, we may lose the benefits that a new technology might provide.
With Tibbs the cat, doubts about the safety of FelineFine may persuade us to stop using it. That may stop Tibbs being poisoned, but it might harm her in other ways.
Below, Big Picture talks you through the problems faced when using a medicine of unknown safety.