Thursday, March 20, 2014

Next case: Just one doctor this time.

We've spent a lot of time recently focusing on how high-ranking people decided to let a private medical device company use the name and reputation of the University of Illinois in support of its product.

But there are smaller versions of this happening all the time.  These cases raise the same set of issues:  How can the public have trust that a doctor who has publicly endorsed a company or its products will use appropriate clinical judgment when caring for a patient?

I offer one recent example forwarded to me by a friend from Seattle, Washington.  On a Facebook post about the U of I, she asks:

How is this any different than my doctor having her endorsement on a medical equipment company's web site

Sure enough, we find the following endorsement:
Beyond that, we find that this same doctor participated in the product roll-out back in 2009:

"I use Smith & Nephew's hysteroscopic morcellator for all my polypectomy procedures, as do all of my colleagues," said Seine Chiang, M.D., Seattle, Wash. "The process of removing polyps has been greatly simplified with the TRUCLEAR System."

I have no reason to assume that Dr. Chiang is anything but a competent and caring doctor, but this kind of endorsement raises all kinds of questions.  Has she received financial support from this company, and, if so, has that been disclosed under the University's rules?  It is certainly not disclosed in these two examples.

Whether or not there was payment, she purports to represent the University of Washington in endorsing this product when she asserts that she and all of her colleagues use this equipment. The University's name is clearly set forth in this advertisement that is published and copyrighted by Smith and Nephew. Is Dr. Chaing authorized to represent her colleagues and the University?  If so, what approval process was followed to do so?

While not as egregious as the University of Illinois case, there are clear parallels.  Is anyone watching this at the University of Washington?  Is anyone watching this in similar cases throughout the country?


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you could publish a 'case of the day' every day illustrating the extent to which these ethical conflicts have penetrated our profession in every way shape and form.
In fact, perhaps you ought to do so, soliciting the stories from patients and others. As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and patients really need to become aware of these conflicts which can profoundly affect their own lives.

nonlocal MD

Anonymous said...

Paul, I am in Seattle, and plan to keep an eye on this.