Medical ghostwriting is plagiarism with a bullet: not only do med-school profs get the benefits of a published article they didn’t write, that published article — written by a drug-company hack — is inevitably misleading, causing doctors to prescribe a drug that is worse than they think. (Which is the whole point.) Patients who take the drug are the big losers.
This sort of thing is so patently awful — especially the harm done to millions of sick innocent people — that you’d think everyone finds it repulsive. Quite the opposite. Living breathing med school professors, such as New York University professor Lila Nachtigall, have trouble seeing what’s so bad about it. The practice appears so common that Senator Grassley asked the ten top medical schools, such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and UCSF, to say their policies about it. He’s asking them: Do you consider plagiarism wrong? Except it’s much worse than plagiarism. Although several say on their websites that it’s wrong, Duke University says that “Severe and/or repeated offenses will result in formal disciplinary action”– in other words, non-severe examples are okay! At least the first time. “Formal disciplinary action” can be as mild as a letter. At Duke, at least, they have trouble grasping how awful it is.
This might seem to have nothing in common with self-experimentation. Self-experimentation can be done by anyone, costs nothing, and is a way to figure out helpful truths; whereas almost no one can get a drug company to write a paper for them (you need to be at a top medical school), drugs are a hundred-billion-dollar/year business, and this sort of ghost-writing is done to hide helpful truths. In a better world, they really would be worlds apart. But you are reading this not because I did self-experimentation but because I did self-experimentation that found out something useful and surprising — the Shangri-La Diet and new ideas about sleep and mood. A big reason it did so was that the experts in those fields — such as the relevant med school professorsÂ — were utterly and completely asleep, so to speak. They were incapable of making significant progress. Extreme careerism — putting one’s career ahead of everything else — is no doubt one reason. They could have done what I did. Fat weight-control profs could have tested different diets on themselves, for example. But doing good research would be harmful to their career (e.g., not enough publications), so they don’t do it. Medical ghostwriting helps their career, so they take advantage of it. So what if millions of sick people are harmed by these decisions.
My surprisingly-productive self-experimentation and the staggeringly careerist decisions of med school profs are two sides of one coin: the profound stagnation in health care. The complete inability of those in charge to innovate effectively. Drug companies are businesses that make drugs. They are not going to explore non-drug low-cost solutions, such as those I explored. Nothing, however, prevents med school profs from doing so — at least, nothing except their extreme careerism. My self-experimentation shows what could have been done. It shows that the health questions we face (e.g., how to lose weight) have solutions much better than a new drug. The widespread practice of medical ghostwriting is one indication why those solutions haven’t been found. Failure to find new solutions means problems have stacked up unsolved, getting worse and worse (the obesity epidemic, the allergy epidemic, etc.). It’s usually called a healthcare crisis — but it’s really a health crisis.