Critical Reasoning
Verbal Ability

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Physician : The hormone melatonin has shown promise as a medication for sleep disorders when taken in synthesized form. Because the long-term side effects of synthetic melatonin are unknown, however, I cannot recommend its use at this time.

Patient : Your position is inconsistent with your usual practice. You prescribe many medications that you know have serious side effects, so concern about side effects cannot be the real reason youwill not prescribe melatonin.

The patient's argument is flawed because it fails to consider that


the side effects of synthetic melatonin might be different from those of naturally produced melatonin


it is possible that the physician does not believe that melatonin has been conclusively shown to be effective


sleep disorders, if left untreated, might lead to serious medical complications


the side effects of a medication can take some time to manifest themselves


known risks can be weighed against known benefits, but unknown risks cannot

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Option(E) is correct

Option A : The patient's argument has to do with whether the physician's refusal to prescribe synthetic melatonin is consistent with the physician's usual prescription practices. The question of whether naturally produced melatonin has different side effects than synthetic melatoninhas no bearing on that argument.

Option B :  It is quite reasonable for the patient's argument not to mention this possibility, especially since the physician expresses a belief that synthetic melatonin maybe effective--but expresses no belief about whether or not it has been conclusively shown to be effective.

Option C :  Awareness that sleep disorders can lead to serious medical complications most likely prompts the patient's desire for treatment-but the patient's not mentioning this possible consequence of sleep disorders does not indicate a flaw in the argument.

Option D :  The patient makes clear that the physician prescribes medications that have serious side effects, the time those side effects take to manifest themselves is not relevant to the argument.

Option E :  Correct. The patient's argument isflawed in failing to consider this key difference between known risks and unknown risks. If the patient had considered this key difference, the patient would have realized that the physician's position is not at all inconsistent, and that the physician's refusal to prescribe is genuinely based on a concern about an unknown risk.

The correct answer is E.

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