Monday, November 13, 2017

Repent, Sinners!

Apparently bioethicists have been paying no attention whatsoever to my sermons about the evils of taking money from pharma. I know, I know. "Even ethicists are on pharma's payroll?" you ask. "Yes, friends, it's true," I reply. "The world is a darker place than you can possibly know."  If you doubt it, just have a look at the bioethicists working for Pfizer: a three-time felon and architect of the evil Trovan meningitis study, 


David A. Boyko, MD, FFPM, Principal, David Boyko LLC; former Senior Vice President, Global Medical Affairs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ

Ames Dhai, MBChB, FCOG (S.A.), LLM. Head of the Bioethics University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, Director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, Durban, South Africa

Jeffrey P. Kahn, PhD, Robert Henry Levi and Ryda Hecht Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy, and Deputy Director for Policy and Administration, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Baltimore, MD

Johan Karlberg, MD, PhD, Managing Director, Clinical Trial Magnifier Limited, Hong Kong SAR, PR China; Vice-President, Alliance for Clinical Research Excellence and Safety (ACRES), Cambridge, MA

Bartha Knoppers, PhD, MA, LLB/BCL, Director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy, McGill University, Montreal (Quebec), Canada

James Lavery, PhD, Research Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital and University of Toronto, Toronto (Ontario), Canada

Doris C. Schmitt, Doctor-Patient-Communication Consultant and Trainer, Medical Journalist, Board member Breast Cancer Biobank Foundation PATH, Konstanz, Germany

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Health inspectors found a man in medical scrubs holding a garden hose. He was thawing a frozen human torso in the midday sun."

Now there's an image that's hard to get out of your head.

From Reuters, a new investigation of the trade in human body parts:

In most states, anyone can legally purchase body parts. A Tennessee broker sold Reuters a cervical spine and two human heads after just a few email exchanges.

Through interviews and public records, Reuters identified Southern Nevada and 33 other body brokers active across America during the past five years. Twenty-five of the 34 body brokers were for-profit corporations; the rest were nonprofits. In three years alone, one for-profit broker earned at least $12.5 million stemming from the body part business.

There's big money in urine

Liquid gold, if you know how to work the angles. 

How New Zealand learned from a medical disaster and kept research subjects safe for three decades

New Zealand had its Tuskegee moment in June 1987, when Metro magazine published the investigative report “An Unfortunate Experiment at National Women’s.” According to the report, women with cervical cancer in situ had been deceived and mistreated for years at a prestigious Auckland hospital. Unlike the United States, however, which took 25 years to apologize to the Tuskegee victims and over nine years to establish a flawed, porous system of research oversight, New Zealand responded to the "unfortunate experiment" immediately. The government began a judicial inquiry, held six months of public hearings, and when it was over, instituted far-reaching reforms that have effectively prevented any further abuses for thirty years.

I have written about the "unfortunate experiment" in an essay for the Boston Review based on whistleblower Dr. Ron Jones' excellent account of the story, Doctors in Denial: The Forgotten Women in the Unfortunate Experiment.  Here's a sample from the essay. (You can read the full essay here.)

Academic physicians are not known for their modesty, but even among his peers George Herbert “Herb” Green stood out. Colleagues described him as belligerent and autocratic. “Quite a bully,” says a former laboratory technician at National Women’s Hospital. Conservative in his politics and chauvinistic in his attitudes, Green was an obstetrician-gynecologist who not only opposed abortion but also sterilization. When screening for cervical cancer became widespread, he opposed that too. Green took pride in being seen as a contrarian—a “doubting Thomas,” as he put it. His ability to intimidate others came partly from his size and bearing; Green was a large, gruff man who had grown up in gumboots on a south Otago farm. But his physical size was exceeded by his high self-regard. Green was supremely confident in his own judgment and he was not shy about letting others know it. If egos were cars, Green would have driven a Cadillac Eldorado.

In the end, he drove it over a cliff. In New Zealand Green is infamous as the physician behind the “unfortunate experiment.” His tragic flaw was signaled by a phrase written on his office chalkboard: “Don’t confuse me with the facts—my mind is made up.” Green was convinced that cervical carcinoma in situ (CIS)—a condition in which abnormal cells are found on the surface of the cervix but not yet any deeper—would not progress to invasive cervical cancer. Never mind the scientific evidence, or expert consensus, or even the policy at his hospital, all of which instructed that CIS should be treated, not simply left alone. Green’s confidence in his own judgment was unshakeable. In 1966, with the approval of his hospital superiors and all but one of his colleagues, Green set out to prove his theory to the world, allowing his patients with CIS to go untreated for years without their knowledge or consent. It would be nearly two decades before the deadly results were exposed.