March 10, 2009

The ethical slope

Don't know if you read what some Harvard Medical students did recently. Brave students to stand up to this institution called Harvard and in reality to all of the powerful medical and pharma community. More power to them!

If not..go read the article here:  Harvard medical school in ethics quandary

This letter to the newspaper, which I reproduce here in its entirety, sums it up well.. (bold emphasis at the end is mine)

Re “Patching a Wound: Working to End Conflicts at Harvard Medical” (Business Day, March 3):
It came as no surprise that an article about medical students finally appeared on the business page. It is quite simple to see that academic medicine not only at Harvard but I suspect in most schools is no longer academic but economic.

A paid employee of a drug company does not fit the classic role of the professor exercising academic freedom and the Hippocratic responsibility to pass on the profession. A dean concerned about and creatively using words to support an economic model of training is a clear sign that the for-profit model of medicine, which has overtaken the hospital world, now owns the educational process as well.

Saddest of all are the students who, because of their sense of entitlement, don’t see the problem. The sad fact is that more and more students choose specialties for economic reasons rather than fields like geriatrics and primary care that are most needed by society.

The entitlement of wealth is unfortunately not the only ethical slope that is steepening for students. Several years ago, in an ethics discussion, I was shocked to hear students defend multiple intrusive examinations of unconscious patients as necessary “in order for us to learn.”

Health care must be seen as a right that provides not economic rewards but care always, cure sometimes and respect and justice for all. I congratulate the students who have spoken out in defense of this right.

Harry C. Barrett
Bronxville, N.Y., March 3, 2009
The writer is a past president of New York Medical College, Valhalla, N.Y.

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