Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again: More Voices from the Past

In a recent post:, I took advantage of Nancy Tomes's excellent survey of the history of pharmaceutical marketing in the 20th century to identify some sources I had not previous investigated. As I glanced over a book by journalist Morton Mintz called The Therapeutic Nightmare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), two quotations in particular caught my eye for their prescience and applicability to today's issues.

The first is from Dr. Walter Modell, one of the most prominent pharmacologists of that day (from Cornell University), speaking to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1962:

What I fear is the increasingly prevalent image of the physician as the businessman. ...If the public believes that caveat emptor has been substituted for the oath of Hippocrates, the whole physician-patient relationship changes. The businessman-doctor does not command the respect and does not have the authority that a physician should have.

The second is from one of my personal heroes of my college days, Sen. Philip A. Hart (D-MI), in his closing comments to a series of Senate subcommittee hearings (1964) on physicians holding financial interests in drugstores:

What amazes me is that a great and noble calling such as medicine has members who apparently are willing to besmirch the public image of the great majority of dedicated doctors for the possible extra financial rewards involved.
What further amazes me is that this same overwhelming majority of dedicated physicians let their colleagues get away with it.

Tomes N. The great American medicine show revisited. Bull Hist Med 79:627-63, 2005.

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