Once again a medical society stood accused of putting its interests before editorial integrity last week as the Massachusetts Medical Society canned Jerome Kassirer, M.D., editor of the society-owned New England Journal of Medicine.
The society's decision not to renew Kassirer's contract over "administrative and financial" issues followed the firing of George Lundberg, M.D., editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year. Lundberg was dismissed by American Medical Association brass in January over his decision to run a survey on attitudes about oral sex, which coincided with the Clinton impeachment trial.
According to sources, Kassirer and fellow editors resisted proposals to use the journal's name on new publications designed to generate revenues for the society.
The AMA, still searching for Lundberg's replacement, recently announced that it would create an oversight committee to "foster objective consideration" of issues that arise between JAMA and AMA management. But it remains to be seen whether such a committee would serve as anything but added bureaucracy.
The Massachusetts society's board of trustees neatly bypassed a similar committee charged with guarding the integrity of its journal. One member of that committee, Tufts University Medical School Dean John Harrington, M.D., resigned in protest.
Meanwhile, New England Journal editor emeritus Arnold Relman, M.D., said the journal, which relies on the free toil of legions of medical researchers, is a victim of its own success. "In this marketplace atmosphere, it attracts attention to itself as a business, when it really shouldn't be a business."
Gray's blues. Critics in California say Gov. Gray Davis' hands are always out for campaign contributions-not necessarily a good sign for someone who just took office in January.
The latest hit came after Davis, a Democrat, met behind closed doors last month with a bevy of managed-care executives and other business and labor leaders, most of whom had contributed to his 1998 gubernatorial campaign. The conclave's purpose: to help Davis sort through the dozens of managed-care bills clogging the California Legislature and identify those he should bless.
"Patients, doctors and consumer activists were not included in the invitation-only meeting," the Associated Press noted.
Ralph Nader and other critics contend that Davis is setting a dubious example by continuing to raise campaign funds aggressively from the same folks to whom he's talking about pending legislation.
Goodbye and good riddance. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bruce McCullough, never accused of being bashful, let it all hang out in his Pittsburgh courtroom late last month as he closed another chapter in the saga of the health system formerly known as Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation.
"Somebody screwed up big time. I don't know who, and I don't know how. But it's got to be an art form of the first order," groused McCullough, shortly before agreeing to sign off on the deal that would let Western Pennsylvania Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, take over the four remaining hospitals of bankrupt AHERF.
McCullough, in an ominous afterthought, added: "I guess I wish West Penn the best of luck. It ain't over yet." He gave his gruff two cents' worth the day after the one-year anniversary of AHERF's Chapter 11 filing, July 21, 1998.
More laughs from Patch. Although details remain sketchy, Hunter "Patch" Adams says he is closer than ever to fulfilling his dream (or is that pipedream?) of building a community hospital in West Virginia to provide free care to everyone.
The movie "Patch Adams," starring Robin Williams, has stirred up enough interest that Adams thinks he is four years away from opening his hospital. He unveiled plans for the facility on a site in a rural area near Hillsboro, W.Va.
He wants to build a 140-bed facility with 40 beds for patients, 40 beds for visitors and 60 beds for hospital staff. The hospital not only would offer the latest in traditional and alternative medicine (including faith healing, he says) but also waterslides, a "community whoopee cushion" and perhaps a trolley.
After 28 years of attempting to get funding for the project, he thinks he can raise $120 million from unnamed donors. The facility would cost $36 million, with the rest being used for free care. Of course, that $84 million wouldn't last forever, so presumably his benefactors have even deeper pockets.
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Nonstick solution. Nobody likes bedpans. But smart design at least can mitigate some of the indignity they inflict. Late last year, Jack Maze, a vice president at Medline Industries, received a patent-No. 5,819,334, to be precise-for a nonstick bedpan he devised after hearing complaints from his mother-in-law about her experiences during a brief hospital stay.
Yup, the polished plastic surfaces of typical disposable bedpans are a problem. As Maze's patent delicately puts it: "Sometimes the bedpan literally stuck to patients, to an extent they could not help themselves and had to call for help." Maze's solution is a lightly textured but still-comfortable surface that prevents the bedpan from adhering to the patient's posterior.
The better bedpans have been a big hit. Medline, based in Mundelein, Ill., sells about 2.5 million each year, at a list price of $3.60 apiece, thus proving once and for all that mothers-in-law make invention a necessity.