green speckled Jackson Chameleon climbing down plant

Disclosure and Hidden Bias

Original June 5, 2019 post revised on October 5, 2019.

The Federal Trade Commission Endorsement Guidelines require bloggers, YouTubers, and other social media content creators to disclose affiliations with products and companies they endorse in specific language: “This post is sponsored by…” Mediakix has created a helpful infographic with details for each media type.

Described in detail in Bloggers Boot Camp and The Digital Mom Handbook, this level of transparency should be applied to more consequential conflicts of interests such as those of politicians, scientists, and doctors.

How conflicts of interest should be disclosed, but are not

  • Politicians and influential government officials disclosing how their favorite charities and family members benefited from foreign government donations and job contracts
  • Doctors disclosing which pharmaceutical companies fund their required continuing education programs so drug company affiliations are clear to the public.
  • Doctors post gifts received from drug company representatives, given to office staff as well, to clarify their relationships (keeping track can help doctors become aware of their unconscious biases)

Prioritizing stuff over health and safety

Understanding how my congressman is influenced by a lobbying group or my doctor by persistent, friendly industry representatives helps me evaluate new bills and new drug recommendations. Yes, legislators and doctors have more education and relevant experience than constituents and patients about certain things, but they are only human.

It is perfectly natural to respond favorably to smiling, generous people who bring gifts and inquire about your family regularly. Even when you think this behavior is not affecting your judgement, it does. In Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, Ben Goldacre writes about doctors’ favoritism in further detail.

Bias in government officials and the medical establishment is more serious and far-reaching than a product reviewer’s bias over a sippy cup.


Links

Jan, Tracy. “Drug companies quietly funnel funds to doctors.” Boston Globe, 5 August 2015, https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2015/08/05/doctors-lobby-keep-lid-secrecy-industry-payments-for-medical-education/pP9NiZVTATh2sCygbG7V8O/story.html.


Featured image by Robert Balog from Pixabay.

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