Undue Influence

One of my readers emailed me a copy of this story, about an ethics quandary that Harvard and other medical schools are facing — namely, that many of their medical professors are paid consultants to pharmaceutical companies. Talk about bias. Many students are understandably upset that their teachers — whom they assume to be impartial and honest about what they are teaching — are actually being paid to work for pharmaceutical companies. So, if a teacher is giving his students information about a specific medication while taking money from the company that manufactures it, do you think he will tell all the risks associated with it, or just the benefits? Do you think he might try to impress upon his students the similarity between two different types of blood pressure medicine (one made by his company, one made by a rival company), or do you think he’ll talk about the superiority of the medicine made by his employer?

It would be one thing if the professors always disclosed their bias, or recused themselves of talking about medicines made by their employer — but apparently, these students were not told. How many doctors are currently practicing that were given biased information (on drugs, procedures, etc.) by those whom they thought were impartial? How many obstetricians also fit this description?

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