Stricter Gift Ethics Urged for Doctors; Study Sees Influence on Diagnoses

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 25, 2006 | Go to article overview

Stricter Gift Ethics Urged for Doctors; Study Sees Influence on Diagnoses


Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Medical professors are pressuring medical schools and college hospitals to establish stricter rules that would ban doctors from accepting any gifts, drug samples or direct grants from drug companies or medical device makers.

The group, which released its report in today's issue of the Journal of American Medical Association, argued that gifts and grants sent directly to medical departments or doctors have too much influence on patient diagnoses.

"If there is one thing our committee agreed upon, it is that there is no such thing as a free gift," said David Rothman, a lead author of the report and social medicine professor at Columbia University.

Mr. Rothman said the group analyzed a series of medical studies in the past few years, which showed corporate gifts as having an effect on a doctor's decision-making.

The report comes a day after a whistleblower lawsuit was filed against Minneapolis medical device company Medtronic Inc. The lawsuit said the company improperly paid millions in dollars to more than a dozen doctors nationwide, which prompted them to perform unnecessary spinal surgeries and affected their judgment.

Medtronic, which would not comment on the lawsuit, said it has a strict code of conduct for any contracts with doctors.

The report focused on academic medical centers in the hope of changing policies at institutions where doctors facing the issue treat patients. The centers also set the ethical tone for medical students, said Jordan Cohen, a co-author and outgoing president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, a Washington medical group.

The policy report was funded by the Institute of Medicine as a Profession, a New York medical foundation that was originally funded by billionaire George Soros, and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Philadelphia board, which sets the U. …

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