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Conflict of Interest in the Medical Community

St%20Jude%20Logo-06-22-10%29.gifThe California Watch wrote about questionable ties between a cardiologist, Dr. Michael Burnam, and a medical device company, St. Jude Medical, Inc.
The allegations are that Dr. Burnam convinced St. Jude to give his son a $200,000 a year job in exchange for a lot of new business. St. Jude manufactures defibrillators, and one patient is accusing Burnam of arranging for a completely unnecessary defibrillator implant surgery. That surgery almost cost a patient his life, when the implanting surgeon accidentally stabbed the patient’s heart with the implant.
This kind of quid pro quo is intolerable, particularly to the extent that patients have no idea of the relationship between their physicians and medical device manufacturers. Part of the problem in this case is that, as alleged by the patient, the cardiologist deliberately misinformed the implanting surgeon about the patient’s medical history. Had he been properly informed, the surgeon would have realized that the surgery was unnecessary.
This may be an extreme case, but there are countless examples of doctors who receive trips, dinners, sporting event tickets and other “prizes” in exchange for business. Can a doctor really have a patient’s best interests at heart when he receives something of value from one device manufacturer and not another?

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