Ah! Just as I’d been hoping, Dr. Daniel Carlat has weighed in on the House wine-and-dine vote to repeal the state’s ban on gifts to doctors by drug- and device-makers. Dr. Carlat, a local psychiatrist trained at Massachusetts General and author of the recent book “Unhinged,” has written about the corrupting influence of gifts to doctors better than anybody else I know. Along with reporting and analysis, he shares personal confessions that have long since expiated any past sins.
On the Carlat Psychiatry Blog here, he spoofs the repeal’s backers. A couple of my favorite excerpts:
Simply put, physicians need this food subsidy, because in Massachusetts, the median physician income is a paltry $216,700, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society. This is only 7 times the median Massachusetts income of $30,751. Those who say that doctors are “10 times richer” than other people are engaging in ridiculous hyperbole.
The fact is, your doctor is hungry and shouldn’t have to pay for his own meal after having gone through medical school and residency. You try getting paged at 3 AM and to put an NG tube through someone’s nostrils. These are punishing experiences and doctors deserve special compensation.
Yes, commoners escape workplace demands by going home at 5 or by taking a stroll through a park during lunch. But doctors need raw oysters and wine after a hard day of work—plenty of it, free, and with fawning pharmaceutical reps complimenting them on their knowledge of vintages.
Hopefully the State Senate will realize that Massachusetts doctors have stronger ethical compasses than Massachusetts politicians, who since 2009 have been barred from receiving anything of value from lobbyists. Lawmakers are, indeed, vulnerable to inappropriate influence from meals and other gifts. But physicians would never prescribe more Abilify after enjoying a steak dinner funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb. After all, they’re doctors!