Dr. Leana Wen.

Dr. Leana Wen.

I recently learned about a great TED Talk about the secrecy in the medical community from a local doctor.

Dr. Leana Wen of Washington, D.C., talked for 15 minutes about all the things your doctor won’t tell you. An emergency physician, Dr. Wen was born in Shanghai but came to America as a child. She was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and is now the director of Patient-Centered Care Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University

You can learn more about the TED Talk here.

Dr. Wen is leading a campaign called Who’s My Doctor, a long-overdue drive for transparency in medicine. Among other things, Dr. Wen feels that Dr’s have an obligation to let their patient’s know if they are receiving compensation of any sort from drug or medical device manufacturers.  Her point is a good one:  a patient has a right to know if their Dr. has any financial interest in recommending a particular drug or device as that financial interest may consciously or sub-consciously influence their recommendation.

I would encourage everyone to watch the TED Talk — it is only about 15 minutes — and learn more about Dr. Wen by clicking on the links above.

Her TED Talk is insightful for anyone navigating the difficult world of medical care. And even if you or someone you love is not in that position now, sooner or later, we will all need some form of medical care.

So be prepared.

I particularly liked the message: “Openness improves care, reduces mistakes and results in less medical malpractice.”

I find it disconcerting that lawyers are ethically required to notify clients when they have a conflict of interest that might impair their judgment but doctors do not have a similar ethical requirement to do so.

I am mystified how doctors can receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year serving as “consultants” to drug companies yet they are not required to disclose that very relevant information to their patients when making decisions about what particular drugs they will to treat that patient.

Here are some excerpts:

  • “We can bridge the disconnect between what doctors do and what patients need. We can get there because we have been there before and we know that transparency gets us to that trust.”

  • “It’s not just patients who are scared. Doctors are scared, too. We are afraid of patients finding out who we are and what medicine is all about. So what do doctors do? We put on our white coats and we hide behind them. And of course the more we hide, the more people want to know what we are hiding.”

  • “The sickness of fear has taken over and the patients suffer the consequences.”

  • “Being totally transparent is scary. You feel naked, exposed. and vulnerable. But that vulnerability, that humility, it can be an extraordinary benefit to the practice of medicine. When doctors are willing to step off their pedestals, take off our white coats and show our patients who we are and what medicine is all about, that’s when we begin to overcome the sickness of fear.”

I would conclude with a challenge to our local doctors to join those thoughtful doctors who have already signed up on Who’s My Doctor. It seems to me that if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn’t you agree to provide the basic information necessary for patients to make an informed decision about the doctor with whom they wish to treat?

Thanks for reading,



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer

The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: info@zifflaw.com