Previous Page An Argument 43.
The following appeared in an article in the health section of a newspaper.
There is a common misconception that university hospitals are better than community or private hospitals. This notion is unfounded, however. The university hospitals in our region employ 15 percent fewer doctors, have a 20 percent lower success rate in treating patients, make far less overall profit and pay their medical staff considerably less than do private hospitals. Furthermore, many doctors at university hospitals typically divide their time among teaching, conducting research and treating patients. From this it seems clear that the quality of care at university hospitals is lower than that at other kinds of hospitals. Question
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion. Analysis
In this argument the author concludes that university hospitals provide no better care than private or community hospitals do.
The author bases this conclusion on the following claims about university hospitals. The university hospitals in this region employ 15 percent fewer doctors. They have a 20 percent lower success rate in treating patients. They pay their staffs less money. They make less profit than community hospitals. And they utilize doctors who divide their time between teaching, research and treating patients.
This argument is unconvincing for several reasons.
The most egregious reasoning error in the argument is the author's use of evidence pertaining to university hospitals in this region as the basis for a generalization about all university hospitals. The underlying assumption operative in this inference is that university hospitals in this region are representative of all university hospitals. No evidence is offered to support this gratuitous assumption.
Secondly, the only relevant reason offered in support of the claim that the quality of care is lower in university hospitals than it is at other hospitals is the fact that university hospitals have a lower success rate in treating patients. But this reason is not sufficient to reach the conclusion in question unless it can be shown that the patients treated in both types of hospitals suffered from similar types of maladies. For example, if university hospitals routinely treat patients suffering from rare diseases whereas other hospitals treat only those who suffer from known diseases and illnesses, the difference in success rates would not be indicative of the quality of care received.
Finally, the author assumes that the number of doctors a hospital employs, its success rate in treating patients, the amount it pays its staff and the profits it earns are all reliable indicators of the quality of care it delivers. No evidence is offered to support this assumption nor is it obvious that any of these factors is linked to the quality of care delivered to patients.
Moreover, the fact that doctors in university hospitals divide their time among many tasks fails to demonstrate that they do a poorer job of treating patients than doctors at other kinds of hospitals. In fact, it is highly likely that they do a better job because they are more knowledgeable than other doctors due to their teaching and research experience.
In conclusion, the author's argument is unconvincing. To strengthen the argument, the author will have to demonstrate that university hospitals in this region are representative of all university hospitals as well as to establish a causal link between the various factors cited and the quality of care delivered to patients.