Doctor, Recuse Thyself

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Today’s New York Times has a piece looking into a June Journal of the American Medical Association article about doctors who serve as paid consultants to investment companies. These companies are looking for an investing edge in medical fields, such as biotech and drug development, and since doctors are ultimately the ones who implement or prescribe many treatments, their judgments are valuable. Providing that sort of information isn’t illegal, barring investment conflict-of-interests. But doctors are occasionally privy to results and information about clinical trials or feasibility studies before regulators or the general public. Today’s Times article comes on the heels of a Seattle Times investigation that found at least 26 cases of doctors leaking confidential information in paid conversations. In some cases, this had clearly observable effects on stock prices as investors reacted. Overall, the flavor of the New York Times article is that doctors should avoid these relationships, which for the most part don’t result in illegal information sharing, to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In the few cases where information is leaked, most seem willing to assume that the doctors are just making small, unintended disclosure mistakes.

But the trading firms certainly know better than to use what they are told. The paper trail seems clear: The Seattle Times was able to obtain investment research reports showing that the financial companies were making recommendations to their clients on inside information obtained from the doctors. The SEC has started investigating, but convictions might be hard to come by, as prosecutors will have to prove that doctors gave specifically prohibited kinds of information, and that those pieces of information formed the conclusions that were passed on to investors, rather than the legal general impressions that may have also been collected. In any case the new light on the problem, and now federal involvement, ought to put some cold water on the future of similar payment schemes.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate