Ethicist Arthur Caplan is a boor

Actor Jim Carrey’s June 30, 2015 tweets on his Twitter account branding Governor Brown as a “corporate fascist” for his signing of SB 277. To his 14 million Twitter followers, Carrey wrote, “California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped. Fascism is when a government imposes its will upon the people by fiat.”

Ethicist Arthur Caplan thinks that the branding is unfair and inaccurate. According to Caplan:

“Nothing like that has happened in California—not even close. The legislature heard testimony, debated and then voted through the law to end liberal exemptions. Passing a law through the legislature and having the governor sign it is called democracy! Democracy turned out to be very good for public health in California this week.”

Caplan did not address the democratic ethics of the substantial sums of money that the pharmaceutical industry invested in the political campaigns of the current members of the California Legislature, as well as the cash it spent lobbying the legislators and Governor Brown.

According to a June 18, 2015 article in The Sacramento Bee:

“Pharmaceutical companies and their trade groups gave more than $2 million to current members of the Legislature in 2013-2014, about 2 percent of the total raised, records show. Nine of the top 20 recipients are either legislative leaders or serve on either the Assembly or Senate health committees. Receiving more than $95,000, the top recipient of industry campaign cash is Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and doctor who is carrying the vaccine bill. … In addition, the industry donated more than $500,000 to outside campaign spending groups that helped elect some current members last year. … Leading pharmaceutical companies also spent nearly $3 million more during the 2013-2014 legislative session lobbying the Legislature, the governor, the state pharmacists’ board and other agencies, according to state filings.”

Neither did Caplan disclose the fact that his own employer, the NYU Langone Medical Center, has had a working relationship to develop a malaria vaccine with one of the top vaccine manufacturers in the world, Merck & Co.

Caplan did not mention that NYU Langone Medical Center has “Master Agreements” with numerous top pharmaceutical companies covering clinical trials—companies such as Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, and others.

Caplan failed to note that he was recently appointed by pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to establish a board to make decisions on requests by terminally ill patients to have access to drugs that have not yet been approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, it was Caplan and Kenneth Moch, the CEO of the biopharmaceutical firm Chimerix, who led the way to proposing the panel in the first place.

Ethics?

— Marco Cáceres

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