Category Archives: Conflicts of interest

Checking conflicts of interest: If cutting corners, at least do it right

Photo: Hey Paul Studios via Flickr

Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way to get them right the next time – even when you already know better and shouldn’t have made that rookie mistake in the first place.

That’s what this post is about: My haste in covering a story I already know a lot about led me to omit a crucial piece of reporting – checking for potential conflicts of interest. I hope others will learn from my experience and use the resources I provide below to avoid the same mistake. Continue reading

Nonprofits, tax breaks and getting hospitals to keep people out

Photo: John Heppolette via Flickr

Kaiser Health News and Capital News Service have been publishing a series called “Baltimore’s Other Divide” – the state of health in a city which has vast disparities in health status, and some of the country’s best known hospitals.

The latest installment, by Jay Hancock, Rachel Bluth and Daniel Trielli, focuses on asthma “hot spots.” Drawing on rich hospital data, they identified the worst places for asthma in the city – ZIP code 21223. People there, like 9-year-old Keyonta Parnell, go the emergency room more often, and call 911 more often. The hospitals know that. But it’s not in their financial interest to fix it. Continue reading

Doctors talk about ethical decisions, surgery on conjoined twins

Photo: Gideon Gil/StatDr. Oscar J. Benavidez (left), Dr. Allan M. Goldstein and other doctors at MassGeneral Hospital for Children used a 3-D model of the twins’ anatomy during surgery to separate them.

The twin girls were joined at the abdomen and pelvis. They had two heads and four arms, but three legs. They had two hearts, but shared a liver, a bladder, and other organs. One was active, the other subdued and growing weaker.

Some 20 hospitals had said they couldn’t help the girls, who had been born nearly two years earlier in a village in Africa. But Dr. Allan M. Goldstein, surgeon-in-chief at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, said yes, they would consider operating to separate the twins. Continue reading

Writing about think tanks and using their research: A cautionary tip sheet

Most reporting on medical research relies on peer-reviewed studies published in medical journals. But independent corporations, nonprofits, advocacy organizations and other institutions conduct their own research. Moreover, they seek media coverage of their findings, usually (albeit not always) to serve their objectives and interests.

One such organization is a think tank, an organization ostensibly aimed at objectively researching and analyzing a particular issue and policy solutions to that issue – but, more often, influenced by an ideological bias that drives their findings. Continue reading

Everything you wanted to know about conflicts of interest (even if you weren’t afraid to ask)

Photo: Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

The May 2 special issue of JAMA is one to bookmark, because its theme is integral to the work of all journalists: reporting on conflicts of interest (COI). And the best part? The whole thing is free to the public — no paywalls.

As much as covering medical research is making sense of the numbers — statistics, p values, absolute risk, the number needed to treat and the rest — it’s also about good, old-fashioned journalism when it looking at all angles of a story. Continue reading