In a post below, I talk about a recent radio ad that I felt was inappropriate. Yesterday, I heard another one. In this ad, there is discussion of a recent research finding that presents the possibility of being able to detect cancer cells in the bloodstream of patients. This is truly great stuff, in that it might someday enable doctors to know if they were successful in removing or killing all of the cancer cells in a person or might enable them to obtain earlier detection of cancer than is currently possible. The people who did this research are outstanding scientists. We all are so fortunate that they devote lifetimes of time and energy to helping humanity.
But the problem with the ad is that it gave the impression that because this discovery was made in one hospital, that hospital can offer superior cancer care to patients. As we know, even if this discovery were ready for clinical application, advances of this sort are made widely available to the world and are not held as proprietary by the discovering institution. (In this case, especially so, in that the discovery is actually part of a multi-institutional cancer research program in which results are widely shared among all participants.)
To be clear, the hospital buying the ad is a superb place to get diagnosis and treatment of cancer. What is objectionable in the ad was the decision to cite a promising research finding and to overstate its relevance to the current delivery of medical care in this hospital. This is particularly troubling in the cancer arena, where patients hunger for new treatments and cures and can easily leap to the conclusion that an experimental finding is already available to them. Perhaps some of you will view this as too fine a line of distinction, but I think we need to be careful here: All of this affects the entire medical community's credibility over time.