Gathering and interpreting clinical data, the subjects of Chapters 2 and 3, respectively, are only means to an end—choosing an appropriate course of action. The action chosen can be one of several possible treatments or simply a decision to wait and see what happens. The present chapter is concerned with the factors that determine which action is chosen. There are many ways to answer the question: Which action is best? There is one answer that is overwhelmingly favored by decision analysts. For them, the only sensible action is the one specified by subjective expected utility (SEU) theory.
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