Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There ARE Some Ethical Docs Out There

You might think from reading this blog, as well as any other media source, that many doctors are greedy S.O.B.'s, trying to make an extra buck anywhere they can. While that might be true in some cases, there is a growing movement away from such avaricious behavior.

Gina Kolata, writing in the New York Times today, notes a trend of doctors rejecting pay from industry. It seems that several very prominent physicians have sworn off the dole from pharmaceutical companies and the like.

The scientists say their decisions were private and made with mixed emotions. In at least one case, the choice resulted in significant financial sacrifice. While the investigators say they do not want to appear superior to their colleagues, they also express relief. At last, they say, when they offer a heartfelt and scientifically reasoned opinion, no one will silently put an asterisk next to their name.

They are part of a group responding to accusations of ethical conflicts inherent in these arrangements, and their decisions repudiate decades of industry influence, says Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, a professor at the Tufts School of Medicine, who has written a book on conflicts of interest. . .

(Kassirer) attributes the change to publicity about conflicts and what can be almost a public shaming when researchers’ conflicts are published. “Finally, it’s gotten to people,” Dr. Kassirer said.

Well, if that's what it takes, maybe we need to provide a public shaming for our self-referring friends. How about taking out an ad in every newspaper in every major city (or maybe just one big one in USA Today) listing every self-referring physician that owns his/her own imaging equipment? Of course, the case has to be made in the introductory paragraphs that this is a bad thing. The convenience arguments and so forth have to be destroyed before they are even uttered. People have to be made aware of what is really happening. No doubt they will be angry when they finally understand.

The NYT article does give me hope that the self-referrers (and the radiologists that read for them) can be made to do the right thing. It would be nice if they all grasped the problem without being forced to do so, but that doesn't seem too likely. Now, who is going to take out that ad?

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