The Business Of Medicine Can Produce Dangerous Consequences - A Small Snippet

This morning I ran across a full-length Shakespearean Epic disguised as a lengthy online story from the Washington Post. The entire saga has all the requirements for a production-ready-for-Broadway Drama. But honestly, we've all seen this story before. The erstwhile whistle-blower who "raises his own doubts and concerns," (over questionable data),  and then takes them to his Superiors or Co-workers. His Superiors or Co-Workers may have the same doubts, but the project must continue. There are deadlines to be made, money to be exchanged, and no small measure of prestige to be had. The stage is so perfectly arranged for "the shocking revelation". In this case it's another one of those "the emperor has no clothes" situations --- which is to say, the lab data in question just doesn't add up. But the situation takes a toxic and unexpected turn, because it's not the whistle-blower who reaches the sad, tragic denouement, it's another Scientist.

For someone non-affliated with some of the "success culture" that can be bestowed upon those who achieve publication and grants from NIH or elsewhere, this plot may sound a tad unbelievable. Medicine is considered one of the more noble professions. Our perceptions of doctors, researchers and medical staff  are (fairly or unfairly) shaped and seen through very altruistic lenses. But the article gives an excellent peek into the nuts and bolts of the principal players behind research and achievement. The big and wonderful "OZ" in this case could well be the NIH GRANT, or it just as easily could be that yellow, brick road to NATURE. Certainly it appears that the combination of the two work as god-almighty afrodisiacs.  

 

Ultimately, we may not know all the particulars behind this tragedy, but my-my-my DO WE EVER recognize this plot. It's not just a great play it's Film Noir at it's finest (all it needs is "a beautiful dame") It's dark, seedy but infinitely human and familiar. Behind the business of medicine, there are whispered remarks and unspoken deeds that transpire in backrooms, or in this instance labrooms.  Of course, this is only ONE story. This isn't an epidemic. It's just one story and it's Johns Hopkins, so I'm sure somebody at the Post felt the big buzz that could come their way. But just as we can leave the Theatre being "touched" or "exposed" by certain dramatic revelations, this one story offers an exposure that leaves us with much the same after-shocks.  

 

Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu


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