White Coat, Black Hat
Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine
By Carl Elliot
(Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807061428, 224pp.)
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Over the last twenty-five years, medicine and consumerism have been on an unchecked collision course, but, until now, the fallout from their impact has yet to be fully uncovered. A writer for The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, Carl Elliott ventures into the uncharted dark side of medicine, shining a light on the series of social and legislative changes that have sacrificed old-style doctoring to the values of consumer capitalism. Along the way, he introduces us to the often shifty characters who work the production line in Big Pharma: from the professional guinea pigs who test-pilot new drugs and the ghostwriters who pen “scientific” articles for drug manufacturers to the PR specialists who manufacture “news” bulletins. We meet the drug reps who will do practically anything to make quota in an ever-expanding arms race of pharmaceutical gift-giving; the “thought leaders” who travel the world to enlighten the medical community about the wonders of the latest release; even, finally, the ethicists who oversee all that commercialized medicine has to offer from their pharma-funded perches.
Taking the pulse of the medical community today, Elliott discovers the culture of deception that has become so institutionalized many people do not even see it as a problem. Head-turning stories and a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters become his springboard for exploring larger ethical issues surrounding money. Are there certain things that should not be bought and sold? In what ways do the ethics of business clash with the ethics of medical care? And what is wrong with medical consumerism anyway? Elliott asks all these questions and more as he examines the underbelly of medicine.
Carl Elliott is a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Believer, and on Slate.com. He is the author or editor of six previous books, including Better Than Well, Prozac as a Way of Life, The Last Physician, and A Philosophical Disease. Elliott lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Elliott grips the reader's attention all the way."
"Dr. Elliott's entertaining and extremely readable essays will have you convinced that in comparison to the shenanigans that go into the creation of a single prescription pill, fingerprint erasure might actually be a little dull."
—Abigail Zuger, MD, New York Times
“If you think your doctors prescribe medications for you on the basis of their unbiased judgment and objective medical research, this book will disabuse you of that old-fashioned fantasy. In his superb exposé, Carl Elliott shows how the big drug companies have bribed and corrupted the medical establishment so that we no longer know which drugs are effective or why our doctors prescribe them.”
—Marcia Angell, author of The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It
“Beneath the white coats and sterile labs of the great American heath care system, Carl Elliott finds a drug-addled, gang-run, con game—sometimes bizarre, often hilarious. The noble arc that runs from Hippocrates to Sherwin Nuland washes out in a ‘business model’ apparently inspired by Timothy Leary, John Gotti, and that infomercial pitch guy for ShamWow.”
—Jack Hitt, contributing editor for This American Life and author of Off the Road
"Enjoyable to read and laced with sardonic wit, this is an eye-opening work that all consumers of health care should read."
“Carl Elliott has written a deep, daring, and sometimes very funny book about aspects of medicine you’ve never seen, and probably never will unless you take the time to crack this cover. You’ll discover what it means when healers forget—or maybe never grasped—their main mission and pollute not only medicine but all those within its circle. Elliott’s book describes the conundrum of modern medical practice wittily, incisively, and beautifully. This book should be required reading for anyone who has ever been a patient—in other words, for everyone.”
—Lauren Slater, author of Opening Skinner's Box and Prozac Diary