Archive for April, 2011

The Ethicator: It’s not Personal, is it?

April 26th, 2011

Invisible ManDear Ethicator,

I am thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and nominating you for the PharmaVoice 100. With the deadline (May 1) fast approaching, I must confess that I still have some reservations about you as a candidate. Don’t get me wrong:  I think you’re brilliant and all, but at times, your attacks on your brother seem, well,  a little personal. Is it really ethical for you to set up a website attacking your brother on a daily basis? Help me out here.



Dear Queasy,

I am deeply dismayed that you would threaten my academic freedom by posing a question like this.  As most of my readers know, the White Coat, Black Hat website is not meant as an indictment of any particular individual. Instead, it’s intended as a forum attempt to address, as a matter of policy, the problem  of cheapskate fuckers who steal their brother’s ideas and turn them into hate-speech infested polemics against hardworking pharma patriots.

The issue raises lot of  questions that merit further study.  For example: Is it appropriate for a so-called bioethicist to exploit his brother’s goodwill and force him to work for free? Are others in the field obliged to speak out in defense of the victimized younger brother? I’m just putting the question out there; nothing personal.  Also, if the brother decides to go online with his concerns and suddenly becomes an online viral sensation, well, what then? Is the plagiarizing fucker expected to take it like a grown-up, or is he entitled to whine like a baby and maybe sue? It’s a question of professionalism and academic integrity, for which some high-level discussions may be necessary.

I hope this clears matters up for you. Remember: 5 more days until the PharmaVoice 100 deadline!

The Ethicator

Got a moral question you just can’t solve?  Send it to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

Too rich to take pharma money?

April 24th, 2011

Guess who showed up at a conference of Big Pharma marketers in Boston and was too pious to take money from them? I’ll give you a hint: He doesn’t pay for his web content.

Thanks, Carl, not only for stiffing your brother, but for driving down the market value of ethicists everywhere. The next time one of us gets asked to work for free, we know who to blame.

The talk, in case readers are wondering, was classic Carl, meaning it went on for hours, like Chavez at a UN meeting.  Fortunately, the audience was spared any discussion afterward. One blogger characterized the talk as one-sided and depressing, but was intrigued by his brother’s searing, truth-speaking twitter feed.  “Maybe the brother should speak at the conference next year to share his perspective?”

Why yes, I accept. My rider includes Wild Turkey and percocet, but other than that, I still come fairly cheap. See you next year!


The Ethicator for the PharmaVoice 100? You are too kind.

April 12th, 2011
PharmaVoice - 100 most inspiring people

I don't deserve it, but if you insist.

I have just gotten word that there is a movement afoot among you, my loyal following, to nominate a certain columnist to the PharmaVoice 100, PharmaVoice magazine’s annual list of the 100 most inspiring pharmaceutical industry leaders.  I am deeply, deeply humbled.

Now, there is something you must understand about my work as a bioethicist.  It’s not about the awards, not about the fame; it never was.  It’s about justice, it’s about service.  It’s about speaking truth to power, and maximizing  your ROI in the process.  It’s about being that lonely voice in the wilderness, a piercing laser of Truth trained squarely on the cornea of humanity:  Standing, like Patrick Henry at the barricades of Fort Sumter, shouting “Here I stand; I can do no other!”

Also, it is about bringing down that piece of shit book my brother Carl wrote.

So really, I don’t know if I deserve this award, but far be it from me to stand in the way of a spontaneous grassroots movement.  You can find the application form, as well as the nomination criteria, on the PharmaVoice website.  The deadline for nominations is midnight, May 1.  Also, in case you need it:

My name:  The Ethicator
My organization:  White Coat, Black Hat website
My title:  CEO and Proprietor (pro-bono)

God bless you all.

The Ethicator

Advice Column, Ethicator

The Ethicator: Am I Selling Students a Bill of Goods?

April 9th, 2011
Welcoming the incoming grad students of 2011-2012

Dear Mr. The Ethicator,

I’m a graduate student at a large public research university that is facing severe budget cuts. While our TA-ships and other teaching gigs could never have been considered plum jobs, these days the university is thinking ever more creatively about new ways to squeeze extra work out of us. And not only this: the fate of our graduate program and our department is very much up in the air, as the university looks for ways to cut costs by closing programs and merging departments. No one knows exactly what’s coming, but it doesn’t look pretty.

The ethically murky area is this: every year, we recruit a group of new graduate students, flying them in from all around the country, and everyone pitches in to try to convince them to join our department. We did this again this year, but without exactly playing up (or mentioning) the real uncertainty about the future of the institution. Did we sell them a bill of goods? Either way, we knew it would hurt the department not to admit grad students for the coming year. In fact, if none of them were to join the department, it would likely be even easier for the university to shut us down.


Reluctant Pitchman

Dear Reluctant Pitchman,

I’m sorry.  I’m having trouble getting past the part of letter where you tell me your department brings in a whole load of young, healthy research subjects every year, and all you do with them is make them grade papers.  Are you serious? What kind of business model is this?

I know you academics aren’t known for your business smarts, but seriously, do you realize how much bigger your ROI would be if you got a project manager for hire?  Better yet, find somebody testing an ADHD drug.  That way, you’ll get pocket money, party medicine, AND some super-efficient graders who never get bored.  That, my friend, is what we call a win-win. I would also consult with experts at to ensure you’re compliant with national laws.

Look: I can tell you’re one of the good guys, just doing your best to look out for the peeps. Good for you. But remember what the airlines say:  When that oxygen mask drops, you put it on yourself first.  Then you help the next guy.  Or, maybe you don’t, because there’s only so much oxygen on the plane and the other guy would probably hog it.

You’re welcome,

The Ethicator

Got a moral question you just can’t solve?  Send it to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

Speak Truth to Power: Join the Social Media Revolution

April 8th, 2011

Speak Truth to Power“For the last shall be first and the first shall be last”

Bob Dylan and Jesus could hardly have forseen the truth of these words.  Social media is now the Gutenberg press of early 21st-century brand management.  From the twitter revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt to my own efforts to bring down lying cheapskate plagiarists, social media has become the great, revolutionary, rectifying force for humanity.

That is why you need to “like” my facebook page, and start following me on twitter (@whitecoatblackh), right away.  If you are only checking my blog 4-5 times a day, you are missing out, big time. Worse, if you are not following social media, it’s highly likely that your friends and colleagues are already starting to think of you as old and out of touch. Pretty soon, they will stop taking you seriously at all.

Don’t let this happen. Be a part of the revolution.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Be One of Us.

My twitter feed is @whitecoatblackh.  The Facebook page is here.

Corporate Outreach, Ethicator, Self-promotion

The Ethicator: Should I “campaign” for an award?

April 5th, 2011

Just to get the ball rolling . . . Hello Ethicator –

I am an ethics graduate student myself, but find to be stuck in a sticky ethical situation. I am currently a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for an upper level undergraduate course. The semester is almost over, and the department I am working for is offering a TA award. The way it works is to have students nominate you, and get the professors to co-nominate. From what I can tell, the profs I am TAing for would have no problem co-nominating me, however it must be the students who initiate it.

I would greatly appreciate getting this award, not only because there is a monetary and certificate component, but also I believe Idid a grea t job at TAing this semester. I spent more hours than allocated meeting with students, giving thorough feedback on midterm reviews, and guidance throughout the whole semester regarding presentations and the final paper (on top of all this, I myself am a full time student with a heavy course load!)

The profs have announced the award through the online course system, though I don’t know how often students actually check it. It’s also a bit of a runaround and somewhat inconvenient:  printing, filling out, signing, scanning, emailing/faxing…

Because of this, I feel the need to remind the students, yet I find myself torn as to whether I should make an announcement on the last day of class or via email asking to be nominated- what do you think? How should I go about this? Does this sound like I am campaigning myself? My internal ‘yuck’ factor is kicking in – but I am concerned if I don’t remind or persist for it by the students, I may not luck out. How do I work the system ethically?


Ethically Perturbed TA.

Dear Ethically Perturbed TA,

Yuck factor? Walk it off. This is just the first of many compromises you’ll make in the ethics racket. This job ain’t for sissies.

Here’s what you should tell your students: The nomination process is difficult and lengthy, but it’s a small price to pay for what they are likely to receive for nominating you. The payoffs for them could be material, such as free drinks or prescription meds; or they could be something less tangible, such as the knowledge that you will be in a much better state of mind when you grade their final papers .

Unseemly? Not at all. Remember: You are not bribing; you are incentivizing.

Also, one final word: You have competitors for this award, and they’ll need to be dealt with. I`ll leave the details to you.

Keep building your brand,

The Ethicator

Advice Column, Ethicator