I last spoke of Medtronic's shenighans with their spinal surgery devices and products here:
It's critically important that if this blog is to be about ethics at the interface between medicine and for-profit industry (drug or device), that I am equally attentive to good corporate behavior as to scandals. This can be challenging as we've seen numerous examples of egregious corporate behavior spun by creative PR so as to appear virtuous. But if it really seems that a company has seen the error if its ways, we should take note and be appropriately respectful.
So is Medtronic now in this august category?
Two things make me accept this account as indicative of genuine corporate responsibility. First, the person who sent me the link is a hard-headed critic of industry and has often seen through PR fluff in the past when I could have been fooled. Second, the person selected to do the study of Medtronic's products, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, has what I believe to be an unassailable position as an independent industry critic. If you want somebody to paper over your misdeeds, he would be a pretty pooor choice.
If we ever want to have a relationship between the medical profession and the industry that takes full advantage of the benefits of collaboration while avloiding the ethical cesspool of today's conflicts of interest, we need models of effective neutral turf where industry and professional folk can foregather to address the issues and see what sorts of new developments might be proposed, without the setting itself creating new conflicts of interest or dangers of one side controlling the discussion for its own ends. I am not sure that this Yale study will be a model applicable to other such settings, but it's certainly a welcome development if it is what it seems to be.