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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70413 Find in a Library
Title: Risk and Responsibility (From Criminology Review Yearbook, Volume 2, P 691-694, 1980 by Egon Bittner and Sheldon L Messinger - See NCJ-70397)
Author(s): D L Bazelon
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 4
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The relation between science and law with regard to government regulation of the risk posed by a product or activity must be defined in order to assess responsibility and preserve individual freedom.
Abstract: The scientific and technological advances which take place every day involve risks to the public. The crucial issue is to establish which government branch (i.e., the executive, the judiciary, or the legislative) is to be entrusted with the responibility of risk regulation, and how much input the citizenry is to be allowed in a democracy. Both judges and legislators undoubtedly lack the scientific and technical expertise in such fields as nuclear physics, toxicology, medicine, genetics, hydrology, and ecology which are needed in order to make informed decisions. Scientists question the wisdom of leaving the decisionmaking process in the area of risk regulation to the scientifically untutored, and are even more concerned with the growing public involvement in these matters. They perceive citizens as swayed by demagoguery and emotionalism into overreacting to issues involving risks that scientists regard as insignificant and marginal compared to the requirements of scientific progress. Risk regulation is a complex process in which uncertainties can never be entirely ruled out. Sound decisionmaking in the area of risk regulation needs cooperation among the courts (which can stimulate dialogue between the parties interested in any given issue), legislators and the public, whose input should be encouraged. Ultimately, however, the responsibility for risk regulation should rest with the regulatory agencies, which should consider all viewpoints and relevant data before making their decisions. Unavoidable delays should be allowed to the extent required by careful deliberation (as distinguished from delays caused by an unthinking rejection of progress). The inherent uncertainties of risk regulation can never be entirely ruled out, but can be minimized by strengthening the administrative process.
Index Term(s): Decisionmaking; Regulatory agencies; Research; Research programs
Note: Reprinted from Science, July 20, 1979, P 277-280. Based on a talk given at the American Bar Association National Institute on Law, Science, and Technology in Health Risk Regulations, Washington DC, April 20, 1979
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