Adventures in Ethics and Science

He defended the views he expressed in many of his radio programs and said that, because he consulted for so many drugmakers at once, he had no particular bias.

“These companies compete with each other and cancel each other out,” he said.

The New York Times on psychiatrist and former radio host, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, whose NPR program “The Infinite Mind” was cancelled after it was discovered that Goodwin failed to disclose more than $1 million in income received for giving marketing lectures for drugmakers.

Dr. Goodwin seems a little unclear on the concept of conflict of interest.

It is not a matter of being in the pocket of one corporate master. As a radio host with obligations to his listeners, having financial incentives to be pro-pharmaceuticals more generally (no matter who sells them) is also a conflict.

And the reason potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed is that those who have them are not necessarily reliable judges of how swayed they are by financial incentives. Maybe you can maintain your objectivity, but it’s best to, you know, actually demonstrate that in your conduct.


  1. #1 Janne
    December 31, 2008

    A radio host? Not a physician or a journalist, but a talk host? I must have missed the part where entertainers have any ethical obligations.

  2. #2 Janet D. Stemwedel
    December 31, 2008

    Given that he was trading on his professional credentials as a psychiatrist in hosting the show he was hosting, surely there was some implicit obligation to his audience.

    Even if there weren’t, NPR asked that he disclose his relevant financial interests, and he failed to do so.

  3. #3 becca
    January 1, 2009

    Dumbest excuse? I think that must have come up in politics.
    Funniest excuse for not disclosing COI? perhaps.

  4. #4 MikeP
    January 1, 2009

    What Janet said. He titled himself a doctor of psychiatry and talked about things you would expect a psychiatrist to discuss. That’s not pure entertainment any more.

    Even if he had no *legal* obligations, that’s one heck of a moral obligation, and his saying he had no bias towards any particular drug company is dodging the issue – I’m pretty sure his drug company buddies wouldn’t have been happy if he’d done a show and said “hey, maybe we don’t need to be prescribing as much medication for condition x, here’s why.”

  5. #5 DrugMonkey
    January 2, 2009

    We are not discussing some radio yahoo here. Homie has serious credentials. Guys like Goodwin and Nemeroff should know better.

  6. #6 greensmile
    January 7, 2009

    In a sense, this is nothing new. It is an often heard excuse for terrible behavior: “I have a drug dependency that affects my judgment, your honor. I plead not guilty”.

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