Who suffers when industry can't support med students? You, the patient

MSNBC.com—May 7, 2008

Commentary by Dr. Edward V. Craig
Special to msnbc.com

The recent proposal by the Association of American Medical Colleges to ban all gifts, food, and even minimal support to hospitals, doctors and students, while well-intentioned, is ludicrous in it rigidity, naiveté and shortsightedness. The urged ban on trivial perks such as pizza lunches and sandwiches for medical students and residents in effect throws the baby out with the bath water. Not only is the baby hurt by this. We all are.

When was the last time you were bribed by a piece of pizza or a logo pen with five days worth of ink?

Unfortunately, this proposal ignores all subtlety, is dismissive of the many benefits of industry relationships with medicine, and considers individuals and medical organizations rudderless in their efforts to be steered by a personal and professional moral compass.

No legitimate doctor would argue for the propriety of inducing physicians to use products such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices through industry-sponsored faux-scientific meetings at resort locations. Likewise, expensive gifts such as computers, while arguably used for scientific purposes, often carry unstated expectations of product support. And no one can argue that padded consulting agreements to doctors who have no real work input into product development are fundamentally unethical ó perhaps even illegal.

Oversight, guidelines and the ability to withstand public scrutiny are essential to maintaining the public trust, which is the backbone of any physician-patient relationship.

Dr. Edward V. Craig is Attending Surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at Cornell Medical School.

Read the full story at MSNBC.com.

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