Ethics takes a step back

Medical School dean’s ethics proposals are much weaker than original recommendations.

In August, the Medical SchoolâÄôs conflicts of interest task force submitted a 13-page draft of changes to the conflicts of interest policy that was considered groundbreaking. Groundbreaking no more. Last week, an unreleased report drafted by Medical School Dean Dr. Deborah Powell surfaced that âÄúconsolidatedâÄù the previous recommendations into a two-page draft with weaker recommendations. PowellâÄôs draft cuts essential recommendations like severing financial ties between industry and medical education programs. The original task force also recommended that any financial ties between faculty and industry be disclosed, while Powell recommended lowering the schoolâÄôs current $10,000 threshold for disclosure to $500. ThatâÄôs more transparency âÄî but with room for opacity. WhatâÄôs the point? A Minnesota Daily report illustrates faculty were left in the dark âÄî despite their calls for feedback. The process simply needs more transparency and should not be headed by a soon-to-be exiting dean of the school, whom herself has been questioned on conflicts of interests with her position on the board of directors for PepsiCo and her appointment of the task forceâÄôs co-chairman Dr. Leo Furcht, who himself was disciplined in 2004 for violations of the schoolâÄôs conflict of interest policy. PowellâÄôs recommendations are improved from current ethics policy. But they are not the groundbreaking, not to mention necessary, changes that the task force proposed in August. The final report submitted to the Board of Regents in April should include the previous recommendations of the task force, not PowellâÄôs âÄî a person who has bungled ethics reform at the Medical School and hence should be taken off the second task force.