Thursday, 23 January 2014

"Make Me A Coffee And Swallow This Pill"

One of the main roles in my job is to meet people who want to put together a medical trial, and help them to construct in such a way that the analysis will be sound, and the process will be ethical. The resulting meetings vary wildly in how easily they go, of course, depending on both the experience and the temperament of those involved.

Every now and again truly ridiculous ideas are thrown up, like the idea of forming a control group out of people who refuse to be included in the trial (let's just steal their info without their knowledge) or creating them from people who can't speak English to consent in the first place.  No obvious statistical or ethical problems there!

As crazy as some of these ideas are, they always come from small cogs in larger machines.  If I didn't shoot them down, someone else would; that's why they come to me in the first place.  So when I see governors of entire states buying tickets for the Ethical Vacuum Express, I get worried.
In August 2011, following an email from Bob McDonnell to Virginia's secretary of health, Maureen McDonnell met at the Executive Mansion with Williams and one of the secretary's senior policy advisors. At that meeting, according to the indictment, Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, "as a control group for research studies."
This wasn't the only time this kind of idea came up. In October 2011, according to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell accompanied Williams and a research scientist who consulted for Star Scientific to a company event in Grand Blanc, Mich... The scientist later emailed Maureen McDonnell a summary of their discussions. In it, he suggested it might be useful "to perform a study of Virginia government employees… to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions."
This, of course, is two tastes of conservative thought tasting great together.  You've got the idea that you shouldn't feel bad about assuming the people working under can be taken advantage of above and beyond the fact they do what you want them to for fairly indifferent pay, and you have the idea (not stated, but doubtless ready to be deployed at a moment's notice) that if this scheme were made voluntary, all considerations about inappropriate arm-twisting would suddenly disappear.  An employee taking on a role they really shouldn't be expected to for fear of rocking the boat? Unpossible!

There are hundreds of thousands of people in America and across the world who would say the biggest problem with this idea is that Virginia hasn't done enough to crush its unions to ensure the skids are greased enough for medical experimentation on your underlings. An awful lot of them spend extraordinary amounts of money to acquire the ears of the people who write the law.  This should be more of a worry than it is currently being allowed to be.

(h/t Rising Hegemon)

No comments: