<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: Junk doctor debunks good science

Monday, October 24, 2005

Junk doctor debunks good science

Get this. There's an organization called the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), which corporations hire to debunk research reports that make them look bad. A doctor named Gilbert Ross is the ACSH's public voice. It's his calm, soothing voice you hear on TV or the radio, trying to quell your fears about the latest bad news about health or the environment.

For example, it was Dr. Ross who wrote on behalf of the farmed-salmon industry that the PCBs in fish "are not a cause of any health risk, including cancer" and Ross whose organization once asserted that the jury's still out on whether environmental cigarette smoke really is hazardous to your health. He spends a lot of time trying to tarnish noncorporate-sponsored research as "junk science."

However, Ross may not be the best choice to assail the credibility of other doctors, scientists, and researchers. In 1995, Ross's license to practice medicine in New York was revoked for professional misconduct, and he was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for his participation in a scheme that defrauded New York's Medicaid program of approximately $8 million.

In addition to his prison sentence, Ross was required to pay $125,000 in fines and was barred from participating in either the Medicare or Medicaid programs for 10 years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services described Ross as a "highly untrustworthy individual" who had engaged in "medically indefensible" practices.

After his release from prison, Ross answered an ad in the New York Times for a "staff assistant" at ACSH. Ross told president Elizabeth Whelan that he'd been convicted of a crime, done time in prison, and no longer possessed a medical license, but she hired him anyway. He apparently was just the kind of "doctor" they were looking for. In 1999, he was promoted to medical/executive director. In 2004, he somehow managed to get his medical license back, with the stipulation that if he ever decides to practice medicine, he faces three years of probation.

This all seems to explain the sometimes contradictory reports we hear concerning the safety of certain foods and drugs. Unfortunately, because of people like Dr. Ross, it might be preferable to err on the side of caution: believe any "bad" news you hear, and be skeptical of arguments to the contrary.

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