U-Minn White Coat author talks corruption and human guinea pigs

Dr. Carl Elliott, a professor of bioethics and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and author of the book White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine dicusses conflict of interest in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries with MedCity News.

Here’s an excerpt. Read the rest of the interview here.

Q. Your book focuses mostly on the pharmaceutical industry, especially on its relationships with doctors. What’s your take on the relationship between device makers and physicians? Does Medtronic’s consulting payments to doctors constitute a conflict of interest?

A. Well, you could call it a conflict of interest, but I prefer the term “corruption.” Corruption suggests a destruction of trust, which is what has happened to medicine. How can you trust your doctor to make unbiased decisions if he’s getting huge consulting fees from a business with a clear financial interest in influencing his judgment? A lot of doctors used to fool themselves into thinking the money didn’t affect them, but by this point there is a huge body of empirical literature on the topic. To deny that you are influenced by the money takes a kind of studied ignorance.