The refusal of physicians to acknowledge their own bias when receiving small gifts from pharmaceutical companies is astonishing. Although as individuals, it is common to deny our own biases, these highly educated individual should be aware of the effects that small gift giving can have on our behaviour. Even if they believe that the effect is negligible, this should be persuasive enough to completely refuse gift giving.
In every day life we see, and are often aware of, the biases we have towards individuals who do us favours and are kind to us. It therefore seems naive to assume that this effect can be completely suppressed in a professional environment. As noted, “the obligation to directly reciprocate (from gift giving), whether or not the recipient is conscious of it, tends to influence behaviour” (Caplan, Katz, and Merz, 13, parentheses added) and this is something that most of us are able to realize. Physicians should not assume that they are above this and need to acknowledge the facts.
If “ Judges, National Basketball Association referees, and Major League Baseball umpires are all prohibited from accepting gifts of any size… Similarly, medical professionals ought to step up to the plate.” (Caplan, Katz, and Merz, 15) This is the only acceptable solution that can maintain the integrity of the medical industry and allow it to remain an industry focused on health and well being rather than financial gain. Furthermore, the fact that gift giving, of any size, is continued to be used by pharmaceutical companies should be a red light to ‘educated’ physicians that these tactics are clearly influencing sales.
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