Your relationship with your doctor might be more complicated than you ever imagined. Financial conflicts of interest abound among physicians, researchers, insurance companies, professional societies, university medical centers, editorial boards, government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the venerated New England Journal of Medicine, is quick to point out that conflicts of interest themselves are not immoral or unethical. However, they promote a bias that can affect the type of health care we receive.
Kassirer cites example upon example of financial conflict of interest in his detailed look at the relationship between big business and the medical establishment. Although he often fails to articulate why some of the conflicts he describes are problematic, the ill effects he does cite are sobering.
There is an 80 percent chance that later in this century a megadrought will plague the American Southwest for decades, according to a study released by researchers at NASA and at Columbia and Cornell universities. The drought will be caused by reduced precipitation and changes in evaporation rates. The researchers say other factors, such as the El Niño weather pattern, could interrupt long periods of severe drought. The researchers say there is time to reduce the factors contributing to climate change (Washington Post, February 12).