Boffey, Philip M. "Medicine Under Scrutiny," New York Times, 20 November 1984, pp. A1,


Boffey, Philip M. "Medicine Under Scrutiny," New York Times, 20 November 1984, pp. A1,

This piece makes the front page: medicine is under pressure to take great care in the research it
does. Once upon a time physicians could do just about whatever they wanted to in the name of
research, but that is no longer true. The recent case of Baby Fae is illustrative of the kinds of
pressure which are now being brought to bear. "The same televised immediacy that turned Viet
Nam into the nation's ‘living room war' has now brought the hospital into the living room as
well, allowing professional critics and laymen to second-guess the procedure every step of the
way. Virtually everyone, it seems, has been able to form a personal opinion on the propriety of
Baby Fae's treatment, a result of the speed and pervasiveness of modern communication." (p.

Opinion is divided on the matter of ethics and medicine is in a pressure cooker. This article
quotes Jonas Salk saying, "It's much more difficult to do clinical investigations now than it was
30 years ago... We may need to re-examine whether we may have gone too far. We may reach the
point where we regulate ourselves to the point of paralysis." (p. C2) Undoubtedly, there have
been experiments done in the past which would not be allowed today.

Boffey alludes to the work which initiated the federal government's intervention and the creation
of Institutional Review Boards, but he does not mention the names of the two physicians
involved or in which state it happened. He does report that the two were found guilty of fraud
and unprofessional conduct by state licensing authorities.

Boffey suggests that "...most health experts welcome the outside criticism and constraints as a
needed brake on the hubris of medical researchers who might be inclined to sacrifice the welfare
of patients for the advance of science."(p. C2)