One of the sub-headlines of a ‘special investigation’ by John Naish was this: “Patients Miss Out On The Whole Picture”.
In Scotland I have campaigned for Sunshine legislation for much of the last decade. This has led me to communicate with a wide array of individuals, organisations and institutions. Based on this – not always straightforward “dialogue” – I would like to offer a summary:
No Royal College has, over the time period of my campaigning, offered unequivocal public support for Sunshine legislation.
– Patients miss out on the whole picture
– In terms of Scotland, the Scottish Government very quietly rejected Sunshine legislation and thus chose to ignore the views that had been gathered from the Scottish public.
– The Royal College of General Practitioners stated on the 8th November 2018 “at present we do not feel able to support an initiative that would make such registration mandatory”.
– The General Medical Council has stated that transparency of competing financial interests is a matter of governance for employers and the Royal Colleges.
– The Science Media Centre has stated that its “declaration of interests policy is based on those of others in the community. Should members of the scientific community change their policies then we would adapt accordingly.”
It is beyond time to hold all of the above to account: Governments, Royal Colleges, Employers, Universities, Media Centres and all organisations that state they can provide information and education that is ‘free from bias’ and ‘free from spin’.
It seems clear to me that “soft power” – which is being ‘deployed’ on ‘our behalf’ [and ‘behind closed doors’] – firmly belongs with Orwell’s 1984 rather than today.
Without full transparency of competing financial interests patients will be left to worry if their treatment may have been based more on marketing than on open science. Furthermore “realistic”, “effective” and “safe” treatments cannot be guaranteed and the ideal of “fully informed consent” will be impossible to fulfill.