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UD Quotes Our Old Friend, Art Caplan


Art Caplan is a medical bioethicist formerly on the faculty at Minnesota. He now works at Penn. As one of my fellow faculty members once said: "He never met a microphone he didn't like." But Art usually does not mince words and this is a good thing.

Margaret Soltan, a professor of English at George Washington, posts on Art's observations in the post: Psychotic Greed, The Left Coast. Here she excoriates another doctor on the dole, Alan Schatzberg of Stanford.

Update: Some more reactions to Schatzberg.

Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist: “The continuing number of problematic cases regarding investigator disclosures makes it clear that universities, academic health centers and professional societies must set clear conflict-of-interest standards for all to follow - or Congress is likely to do so.�

Understand what Caplan’s saying here. The greed and cynicism of some of our most prominent professors, coupled with the indifference or cluelessness of our universities in regard to their sometimes scientifically questionable or even fraudulent activities, may mean that the autonomy of our universities — in UD’s opinion, the central reason American universities are the best in the world — will be seriously compromised. The “problematic cases� to which Caplan refers are about the American university’s invasion by mercenaries, for whom the ethos of scholarship is a joke. As flagrant campus corruption attracts more and more attention from the government, elected officials will legislate the good practices universities can’t seem to manage themselves.

For the reality is that universities can set all the conflict of interest standards they like, but a university is not a policing agency. It will always tend to respect, trust, and support its professors in their research, and it will seldom have the investigative capacity to find financial or research wrongdoing, or the judicial capacity to punish it in a serious way. If universities can no longer trust their professors to do honest science and to remain intellectually and morally independent of drug companies, the universities have a couple of choices open to them:

1.] They can hire a permanent team of financial investigators of the sort Grassley has on his staff, and this team can regularly investigate faculty who receive grants and who have financial interests in various companies. Professors would be called in for questioning, their tax documents might be scrutinized, their business associates interviewed. In short, the university can make itself over into a policing agency.

2.] The university can relax and accept the fact that because � drug makers have displaced the U.S. National Institutes of Health as the primary source of research financing,� many of its professors in the sciences are not professors at all, but contract employees of drug companies. Hell, some of its professors are drug companies, like Schatzberg. Leave research integrity to the National Institutes of Health; our campus is about enhancing the profits of drug companies and enriching our researchers.

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