Health researchers haven't been faring too well in the news lately. The most recent revelations about scientific misbehavior concern the failure of several prominent health researchers to disclose their financial interests in the treatments they praised in print. Info in the NYT here, here, and here.
Why should the general public care about conflict of interest in professional medical and scientific publishing? Because this one of the main sources (other than online databases) postgraduate physicians use to get information about what's the best way to treat patients. So if an author recommends a certain medication or treatment on the basis of his own financial gain--rather than on what's best for patients--your doctor may (unknowingly, trustingly) recommend that treatment for you or for a family member. (Btw, both of these studies are about treatment for depression--and one includes data on treating depression in children. High-stakes stuff.)
In related news, have you seen the new ads for Lipitor (a cholesterol-lowering medication) featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik? Yes, that's Dr. Jarvik, as in the artificial heart. You can hear ethicist Katie Watson's NPR piece about it here, and read about it here.
And don't get me started on Hwang Woo-Suk. I predict his next blame-deflecting move will be to claim alien abduction.