Does disclosure affect strategy or competence?

Did you see the Tuesday edition of Wall Street Journal, Health section? David Armstrong discusses  the business interests of doctors — and their ethical responsibility to disclose their personal financial interests in any business that benefits from their prescribed medical treatment, whether that treatment be medicine, equipment or otherwise.

The bottom line is that it is the patient’s responsibility to ask the doctor if he/she has any financial connection to the recommended treatment. The suggestion is that if the answer is "yes," the patient should get a second opinion. Not bad advice, but still a matter of personal trust and interaction between the doctor and the patient.

If the doctor has a financial interest in a treatment modality, this may influence the doctor’s prescribed treatment. Note that there is no movement here to demand that doctors disclose whether they have malpractice insurance. Perhaps because the existence of insurance is not likely to influence the treatment modality to be prescribed.

Why is it that some lawyers misguidedly believe it is important for lawyers? It’s existence or absence does not affect the legal strategy advised or vigor or competence of legal representation. As a side note, however, it is interesting to note that most of the lawyers advocating that other lawyers make disclosure DO have a personal financial stake in the outcome of this discussion. Most represent insurance carriers who whose premium income might increase. Yet, there is no disclosure required by them in their discussions of this topic. Interesting, eh?

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