Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2011

Free Drug Samples and Hospital Hotels: Which is the Greater Evil?

Many folks criticize pharmaceutical companies for providing physicians’ offices with free drug samples. They claim that this giveaway harms consumers because drug companies must raise their prices to cover the costs of these freebies. Of course, this is undeniable. Any business expense, such as payroll or advertising, has to be covered and is expectedly borne by the consumer. If a company chooses not to advertise, outsources manufacturing to a country with cheaper labor, offers limited benefits to its employees, then they can sell their product at a low price. In this hypothetical example, anemic sales may doom the company quickly. Naturally, free samples are not really free. The rest of us pay for them. While this is true, I don’t think it is evil. Unlike the U.S. government, at least drug companies are covering their costs and not simply borrowing money every year to meet budget. Interesting concept. Two of the community hospitals I work at have undergone transformations. One is

Health Care Reform in the Crosshairs

Last summer, at the Cleveland Film Festival, I saw a movie called The Lottery, which is still swirling in my head. It is a documentary about the enormous obstacles that true education reformers confront when they try to help our kids learn. The film was raw and powerful and made me angry. It led to many family discussions about the state of education in America and a search for a way forward. The film is certainly not a balanced view on this issue, and teachers’ union supporters who view it will need to have industrial strength antacids available. I found The Lottery to be more powerful than the more popular movie Waiting for Superman, which addresses the same theme. Assuming the facts are as presented, viewers are shocked to learn how long and how expensive it is to remove an incompetent teacher. The New York Times reported that governors across the country are seizing on the public mood and are working to dismantle the teacher tenure system, where jobs are protected regardless o

Overtreatment and Unnecessary Medical Care: Healthcare's Biggest Threat

My daughter, Elana, home from college on winter break, offered me a book to peruse from one of her classes. She correctly suspected that her father, the Whistleblower, would enjoy reading a book authored by a Whistleblower pro. The book, Overtreated, by Shannon Brownlee, should be required reading for first year medical students, who have not yet acquired views and habits that promulgate excessive medical care and treatment. For those of us already in practice, this book should be a required element of board recertification. The theme of the book appears as a subtitle on the cover. Why Too Much Medicine is Making us Sicker and Poorer Brownlee understands the medical system well and describes a culture of excess, conflicts of interests, absence of universal quality control mechanisms and fractured and disorganized care with no one in charge of a particular patient. She presents some chilling anecdotes of medical tragedies that have occurred at our most prestigious medical instituti

Selling Human Organs for Transplantation: Ethics Under Siege

I have previously posted on the ethics of paying for organ donation. I find this notion to be ethically troubling, but I believe the issue deserves fair debate. In general, my belief is that a personal anecdote should not drive policy in medical ethics. There are many individual vignettes that are poignant and heartbreaking that tempt us to relax our ethical boundaries. For example, permitting us to harvest organs from folks who are ‘not quite dead’, would save lives, but society’s rights outweigh this benefit, in my view. For similar reasons, I resist efforts to relax the definition of death in order to increase the reservoir of available organs. If death is redefined as a result of a search for truth, then the process is ethically permissible. Participants in these discussions would include medical professionals, theologians, ethicists, legal experts and ordinary people. If a result of this process would be that there would be more organs available for transplantation, then I would