Friday, December 16, 2005

Paying for Silence: Updating the Blumsohn - Procter & Gamble - Sheffield University Case

The Times (UK) Higher Education Supplement (THES) has reported more about the case of Dr Aubrey Blumsohn at Sheffield University.

We have posted before (here most recently) about how how Dr. Blumsohn had attempted, in vain, to get access to the data from a research project on the drug risedronate (Actonel, made by Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals [P&G]) that he was ostensibly leading, and to control the writing of research abstracts that was done supposedly in his name. His attempts were opposed by P&G. Sheffield University failed to support his efforts, and after he talked to the media about his problems, suspended him from his duties.

THES reported that the University had offered Blumsohn 120,000 pounds sterling "compensation" and another 25,000 "for injury to feelings." However, to get the money, Blumsohn would have had to agree not to make any "detrimental or derogatory statements" about Sheffield, or its staff, including the Dean, Tony Weetman, and its Vice-Chancellor, Robert Boucher.

Blumsohn rejected the offer, stating "Effectively, I would be accepting 145,000 [pounds] in exchange for allowing part of the jigsaw of clinical and scientific debate to remain uncorrected, and this would be unconscionable."

Its remarkable how many health care leaders seem focussed on secrecy.

We have posted a few times about this (here most recently). Each of those posts was in response to sets of cases in which health care leaders tried to suppress facts or opinions they didn't want aired in public.

So I get to quote myself again - Posts on Health Care Renewal recently "demonstrated the continuing threats against transparency and openness in health care. They also demonstrate that many threats come from leaders of large health care organizations who don't like information that puts them in a bad light made public. Yet how will we improve health care without access to information about what is going wrong, and opinions about what do to improve things?"

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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