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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Silly Season Arrives

The holidays approach and the elves are busy, and not only at the North Pole. A friend who works at the UCLA Medical Center forwarded to me the following paean to silliness, distributed to all employees:

THE GREAT PEN EXCHANGE! Once again, UCLA is leading the way. This time in adopting new guidelines for our relationship with industry. To start, we're asking everyone to bring any pens (as well as mugs or other items) that bear the imprint of a medical company or product, to exchange for a brand new, spiffy UCLA Health system pen. Don't be left out! Starbucks $5 gift certificates to the first 100 participants at each location!

So, let's see here. Quite apart from their poor grammar, the august administrators of the UCLA Medical Center---world renowned for reasons that remain curiously obscure---apparently believe that their staff will sell out the interests of their patients for... a ballpoint pen. And how, precisely, would such perfidy proceed? Well, that is far from clear; presumably, the doctors will prescribe drugs ineffective for a given patient rather than an effective alternative because their morning coffee (not from Starbucks) was consumed from a mug bearing the logo of the producer of the former. Can the UCLA bureaucrats actually believe anything so stupid?

Well, the obvious answer is "Yes." Emphatically. Notice that this corruption on the part of the doctors would be observed not in the case of new gifts---shiny pens and the like---but also for such goodies already received and presumably with the removable pen caps already chewed. Why would an old gift yield continuing corruption? The UCLA bureaucrats offer no clue. And notice as well that the mere presence of a gift is not enough; no indeed, it is the gifts that "bear the imprint of a medical company or product" that raise the concerns of the UCLA green-eyeshade types. Someone might see it! And, by the way, did UCLA buy the Starbucks gift certificates? Or were they donated? In either case, the potential for corruption is immense---after all, five dollars would buy only a small latte, but a whole packet of pens---and the only difference is the identity of those to whom the doctors will have prostituted themselves.

So there we have it. Gifts not bearing logos are kosher; so, how about some cash in an envelope? Obviously---obviously---it is not actual corruption that concerns the UCLA bureaucrats; it is instead the potential appearance of corruption in a form so trivial that only modern journalists---political science majors who failed to be admitted to law school---could actually believe it. Along with, of course, the deep thinkers among the UCLA administrators, spineless, stupid, and self-satisfied in their moral superiority.

[cross-posted from]


Michael Simpson said...

Ah, it's the old "appearance" of corruption - that's the important thing. Of course, they wouldn't dare touch what seems to me the *real* corruption in the American medical system, namely that physicians are paid by insurance companies in ways quite independent of what looks to me any sort of rationality. Spend a couple of minutes plucking a mole off someone and get paid lots more than spending 45 minutes diagnosing Alzheimer's. But I'm sure that UCLA medical doesn't want to touch that - it might upset the surgical-heavy gravy train...

Tom Van Dyke said...

What is it with these people? They're always up to something and think somehow they're so clever that we dolts can't see them coming from miles away.

In a week or a month, the Los Angeles Times will feature UCLA's "exposé" of how the medical profession sells out its patients for a handful of Big Pharma's free pens.

Thanks, Dr. Zycher, for your prescient exposé of their "exposé."

And our Mr. Simpson cuts far closer to the bone in an offhanded comment to a blog post than UCLA's clumsy machinations and the LA Times' coming front page "news" will ever do.

Well done, sirs.