What is to be made of the calls for mass resignation across University of Minnesota leadership? Must heads roll and careers become ruined to satisfy imperatives for social justice, and would justice be well served? What are the motivations to subject our students to tuition increases and no campus improvements in the name of righteous behavior?
Carl Elliott feels he has insight into clinical research and repeatedly faults University President Eric Kaler for not meeting with him. His CV provides little to warrant this claim. Instead, it shows enhancements by public rebukes of University administration.
Maybe his expertise in bioethics makes them so insightful into ethical dilemmas that the fact that their actions embellish their own credentials is not important and we should remain attuned to their demands? However, as Sally Satel notes in her review of “White Coat, Black Hat,” “Carl Elliott’s sensational and depressing message, which is that most doctors are dupes and the rest are corrupt,” makes one wonder about being fully objective.
Satel notes her concern that “The Wild West days of free-ranging drug salesmen, lavish gifts and pharma-scripted talks are largely over. But Elliott’s book unfortunately keeps alive the impression that corruption, both subtle and overt, is rife.”
“Without actually intending it,” Elliott writes, “we have constructed a medical system in which deception is often not just tolerated but rewarded.” Is this, as Satel seems to imply, sensationalism for the sake of book sales or a committed scholar who fails to recognize change?
Elliott’s motives are noted in his satirical essay, “How to be an Academic Failure: An Introduction for Beginners,” when he explains prophetically: “If you are feeling a little too comfortable with success, it doesn’t usually take much work to dig up some sort of ethical problem to expose. Conflict of interest, research scandals, malpractice lawsuits in waiting — any of these will do. Go to a dean or a hospital administrator, kick up a fuss with your Institutional Review Board.”
He then goes on to note “In bioethics, there is always somebody for you to alienate.”
It is a lack of even-handedness, along with a track record of conflicting interests — from resume padding to book sales — which has me questioning the motivations.
Imbalance can make for handsome rewards. Ethical decisions involve judgments that typically are in the gray area without a clear delineation. Lack of objectivity or even the perception of such can exclude an individual from having their opinions taken seriously. Have these faculty crossed that line?