We welcome another fine guest blogger to the ThisMakesMeSick Family. Dr. Westby Fisher practices near sweet home Chicago and finds time to pen a shrewd blog here. He also runs MedTees.com, a site that provides a supportive, humorous sanctuary from the day-to-day drudgery of long-term illness.
Enough talk, read his piece on Sen. Hillary Clinton's and Sen. Barack Obama's "Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform." Dr. Wes asks why the medical press jumped on it, while the political hacks did not.
In case you missed the most recent issue of the New England Journal of MEDICINE's (the capital font is for emphasis) publishing of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's
2008 presidential bid perspective piece entitled "Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform"
on their proposal for medical liability reform, it can be found,
available for free and to all (unlike most of the other peer-reviewed
research studies and reviews published by physicians in the Journal) here.
Interesting that this piece was displayed so prominently in the medical
press but has failed to be picked up by the political press. As you
read this piece ask yourself, why does this piece appear where it does?
When you combine politics and medicine as in this piece's title, you get on-the-Hill "position speak" which coins such terms as "patient safety" and creates the unspoken bind that any alternative position is "against patient safety." This is typical political Hill strategy but now it inserts itself into a health-care community not seasoned to this type of manipulation.
Now don't get me wrong, medical liability reform is needed. Certainly there are points made by senators Clinton and Obama that warrant careful consideration. But manipulation of physicians with such patient-centric titles (who doesn't want patient safety?) and legislation not yet "peer reviewed" in the halls of Congress (especially when no retort is published) in one of the most influencial and cited medical journals screams of bias and limits the objective credibility desired by its readers.
Does the publication of this work (which reiterates the legislation now moved to committee in the Senate and published previously) violate the Journal's own Ingelfinger rule? The NEJM boasts: "Just 8% of manuscripts submitted are accepted for publication and none are reported in any other medium prior to publication in NEJM." It now seems legislative opinion pieces are permitted a double standard - after all, this piece was presented before in the U.S. Senate on 28 Sept 2005 as Senate Bill 1784.
None of us are ignorant to the political overtones of this debate. Some have even suggested this legislation might consitute a bribe of physicians. Certainly more balanced opinions exist regarding this legislation and even more opinions exist on the validity of the data regarding medical liability and medical errors. But I ask: where are the senatorial perspective pieces in the Journal on the other medical liability reform legislation (like S. 22 or S. 23) recently filibustered and defeated by Democratic interests on the Hill?
Or does this perspective piece fall under the guise of a Journal advertorial? If so, it was not properly labeled.
Perspectives are just that: perspectives. Certainly the influential nature of the authors of this piece bear notice. But their political position should not be permitted to manipulate the medical community in a medical journal until acceptably vetted on the floor of the Senate.