DNC controversy highlights importance of public’s trust for physicians

July 25, 2016

The controversy at the start of the Democratic National Convention highlights the importance of ethics and transparency, something physicians understand well.

Like the physician-patient relationship, the relationship between elected political leaders and constituents is one based on trust. At the outset is the understanding that the constituent and the patient do not have the time and expertise to know the inner workings and day-to-day decision making. Constituents as well as patients rely on these “surrogate decision makers” to be informed, ethical, transparent and acting in the best interest of those they have pledged to serve.

 

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There are several events that have unfolded in the few days leading up to the Democratic National Convention, specifically: the disclosure of collusion between the media, the DNC and the Clinton campaign; and the creation and promotion of misleading and false narratives regarding Bernie Sanders; and the revelation of financing of the party by means against the Party’s own rules. These events are of great concern to me (as an individual that has aligned my beliefs and ideals with those of the Democratic Party since my first presidential vote) and should be for all democrats. The current climate of the convention leadership is to ignore these events, to claim ignorance of their implications, or to dally in conspiracy theories of Russian intervention in American politics. 

As a physician, the importance of transparency and ethics is of paramount importance. As a healthcare provider, I rely on the work of many parts of the federal bureaucracy-the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Health and Human Services-to be informed, ethical, impartial, transparent and acting in the best interest of the health of our nation overall and our individual citizens. As providers are aware, increasingly our patients have become skeptical of the policies and recommendations of the medical mainstream. Issues of special-interest financing and lobbying have clouded the reputations of these Federal organizations. Many physicians remember the days when pharmaceutical companies had access to physicians and could pay for trips and dinners and pens and clocks. Those in Washington, D.C., agreed that these “favors” at least implied an undue influence on the decisions of providers.

 

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That Hillary Clinton (and many of her colleagues) thinks she is uninfluenced by the “donations” and “speaking fees” should strike us as a double standard (which is what she tried to claim in her statement in the debate before the New York State primary). With public trust being so foundational to the advancement of medicine and public health, we as physicians and healthcare providers should be concerned at the continuation of unethical behavior on the part of leadership in the Democratic Party and in our governmental institutions overall.