Smoking guns; Doctors gave ‘biased views’ on cancer for tobacco industry

in the press

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stateside one world“Some doctors are so pathologically unethical, they deserve careers in terminal decline. It’s bad enough that six doctors were willing to give expert testimony on behalf of Big Tobacco in the US. Given the history of the industry’s influence on doctors, and its deep pockets, it’s not all that surprising that a study shows the doctors gave unscientific and ethically questionable testimony to help some of the country’s biggest tobacco companies evade responsibility to consumers of their products. It’s difficult not to see the doctors’ behaviour as a rank betrayal of the Hippocratic Oath, and simple worship of the god, Mammon. Of course, smoking isn’t the only freely available carcinogen, and there is enough information out there for both doctors and ordinary mortals to know smoking is bad for health. For doctors to try to put a positive spin on smoking and cancer risk is just not what we expect from them. This Bloomberg report looks at research into the role of doctors in tobacco lawsuits. It makes for unedifying reading” – Marika Sboros

View original article by Michelle Fay Cortez
Six doctors gave scientifically invalid and ethically questionable testimony when serving as expert witnesses on behalf of the biggest US tobacco companies in court cases from 2009 to 2014, a study says. The otolaryngologists, doctors who treat ear, nose, and throat conditions, testified or provided depositions in more than 50 Florida lawsuits. For RJ Reynolds, a unit of Reynolds American Inc; Altria Group’s Philip Morris unit; and Lorillard Inc, purchased by Reynolds, according to the paper published in the journal Laryngoscope.

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A review by Prof Robert Jackler, chair of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, found that five of the doctors detailed numerous environmental and genetic causes that could have caused an individual’s cancer, even though published studies show tobacco is the leading cause of such malignancies. A sixth questioned whether a plaintiff was really addicted since the plaintiff was able to quit smoking after going to the hospital with breathing difficulty. Philip Morris took issue with the study. “We believe that out-of-court attempts to criticize experts for testifying on behalf of defendants in these cases have no place in our judicial system,” said William Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA. David Howard and Bryan Hatchell, both spokesmen for RJ Reynolds, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Stanford research group
Jackler is founder of the group Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, through which he has written earlier papers scrutinizing the role of doctors in tobacco lawsuits. The opinions given by the tobacco industry’s expert witnesses reveals a ‘systemic bias’ in interpreting the scientific evidence, Jackler’s report says. Some of the experts pointed to other potential causes, including the use of mouthwash, diesel fuel, salted fish, drinking, and living in the city, and said heavy smokers who gave up the habit should have had no more risk than non-smokers. “The testimony looked like peas in a pod” Jackler said in a telephone interview. “In case after case, these physician experts testified that smoking was not the cause of these heavy smokers’ cancers. I was deeply disturbed that these physicians gave biased testimony, exonerating tobacco as the cause of cancer in these dying patients.”
Florida ruling
The lawsuits were all part of a series of cases being heard in Florida, where the state Supreme Court set aside a record $145 billion class-action verdict against the industry in 2006 and told thousands of smokers to sue individually. Each had to prove his or her unique cancer was caused by smoking and that he or she was addicted, thus creating the need for expert testimony. One doctor received almost $100,000 for testifying in one case, or $750 an hour, he said in a 2009 deposition posted on the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and footnoted in Jackler’s report. The average medical expert witness earns $555 an hour, according to a 2012 survey of 1,030 people who worked in the industry. View full article

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Marika Sboros (20 July 2015) Smoking guns: doctors ‘gave biased views’ on cancer for tobacco industry [newsl]. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/ov347sw

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