Legal Liabilities

  • by: |
  • 12/19/2006
There's been a lot of chatter lately about transparency -- especially when it concens conflicts of interest. And transparency is a good thing.

So why doesn't this same rule apply to, say, tort lawyers and professional medical witnesses?

Yes, as a matter of fact I do have some specific examples in mind.

The first is the justice-seeking tort lawyer featured in Alex Berenson's recent articles in the New York Times. His name is James B. Gottstein, and he is identified as "a lawyer who represents the mentally ill."

That sounds very altruistic. But is he working pro bono? If not, shouldn't the story have disclosed what his potential fee will be if he wins his pending cases? Would the public's perception of the story shift if full disclosure led to a more transparent descriptor for Mr. Gottstein that read, "a lawyer who represents the mentally ill in court cases asking for $25 million in damages of which he will receive a 25% contingency fee of over $6 million?"

I am making these numbers up -- I do not know if Mr. Gottstein is, indeed, working pro bono. I do not know what damages the lawsuits are requesting, nor do I know what his contingency fee is. Guess it's not part of "all the news that's fit to print."

Next example is Dr. David Healy. Dr. Healy recently testified at the FDA hearing on antidepressants. He is a psychiatry professor at Cardiff University in Wales but also, according to the New York Times, has worked for plaintiff's lawyers in cases brought against pharmaceutical companies. That's transparency. When I served as Associate Commissioner at the FDA, Dr. Healy visited with me -- but he never mentioned that he worked for the tort bar. That's dishonesty.

Transparency isn't a sometimes thing -- and if critics of industry and the FDA want more of it, they should do more of it themselves.

"Do as I say, not as I do" is not a workable policy -- a fact that should not be ignored by the MSM.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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