White Coat, Black Hat Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine

Interview

Dr. Carl Elliott, MD, PhD, BFD

Dr. Carl Elliott, MD, PhD, BFD

After weeks of dodging phone calls, Carl Elliott, the Favorite Elliott Son, finally condescended to an interview with his nobody brother. We spoke by phone.

BE: White Coat, Black Hat. I don't get the title. What's it mean?

CE: Well, you know. Good guys, bad guys, that kind of thing.  Bad guys wear the black hat. So it refers to the way people in medicine can find themselves doing harm for various reasons.

BE: Sounds racist to me.

CE: Racist? What are you talking about? In what way is that racist?

BE: Not for me to say. Other people can make that judgment.  So, were you thinking about one of those wide-brimmed black hats with a feather in it, like a pimp wears?

CE: No! Jesus. Look, you’ve seen cowboy movies, right?

BE: I’ve seen cowboy movies. And I know that sometimes the good guys have black hats. Sometimes the bad guys have white or brown hats. And some cowboys are African-American. I just don’t get your obsession with black cowboys, and why you think they have to be the bad guys. Our parents raised us better than that.

CE: This book has nothing to do with cowboys. It’s not racist, either. It’s about medical corruption. Scams, fraud, bribery, propaganda. Not cowboys.

BE: If your publisher does a paperback, you should think about another title.

CE: Okay. I’ll pass that advice along to the publisher.

BE: Hate speech is a felony, you know.

CE: Right. Good advice.

BE: So, apparently now you make your living making pharmaceutical companies look bad. A pretty good living, too, I hear. There must be lots of money in the hate speech business.

CE: Okay, you’ve really got to knock if off with the hate speech thing. I can take a joke, but this is the kind of accusation that could really get me in trouble.

BE: You made your bed; now you have to lie in it. At least Hitler didn’t call Mein Kampf an ethics book.

CE: I’m not kidding now. This isn’t funny.

BE: I can’t help but notice that you have a pretty nice house. You do a lot of traveling too. How much money did you get for this book? Do they pay you extra to make all those racial slurs?

CE: Come on. Why are you doing this? This doesn’t have anything to do with my book.

BE: How does it feel to be rich, anyway? Are you a Republican now?

CE: No, I’m not a Republican. And I’m not rich. Can we just stop this? This is making me uncomfortable.

BE: I'm not here to make you comfortable. Say, whatever happened to that Richard Nixon poster you had in your room when we were little? Remember how you had it on the wall above your bed, next to the American flag? That was weird. It was like some kind of shrine or something.

CE: Okay, this is getting out of hand. I don’t know why I agreed to do this, but it was obviously a mistake.

BE: Another thing: Do you know how much it costs a normal person to set up a web site? Somebody without a brother who will do things for free?

CE: Okay, now I get it. Look, if this is about my asking you to set up a website for me, I’m sorry. Just forget about it. I shouldn’t have asked. I’m not sure what the point of a website is anyway.

BE: So my job is useless? Is that what you’re saying? That I’m wasting my life just because I didn’t go to medical school like you did?

CE: No! That’s not what I’m saying. You have a great job, I totally respect it, and I’m sorry if I said anything to offend you. I’m sorry. Okay?

BE: Right, patronize me. Anyway, I can see you do a lot of pharma-bashing, for which you are clearly well-paid. Do you have anything good to say about pharmaceutical companies?

CE: Well, drug companies are pretty easy to bash these days.

BE: But I asked you if you had anything good to say about pharmaceutical companies.

CE: Sure, they are really good at making money. Their profit margins are enormous.

BE: "Good at making money". Man, that is dickish. Care to answer the goddamn question?

CE: I thought I did.

BE: Another non-answer. Asshole.

CE: So this is how it's going to be? Great. This should be terrific for the book.

BE: I'm not here to sell your racist book; I just want answers. Okay, how about this. You've been called a "highly controversial figure" in bioethics - which, let's face it, is a candy-assed way of saying that lots of people hate you.

CE: What? Where are you getting this stuff?

BE: In some circles, you are known as "Dr. Pious Dickhead" and "Dr. BFD". A recent review of some of your books suggested you had anger-management issues, which somehow shielded you from any real criticism. Why is that?

CE: Come on, this isn’t fair. Your anonymous comments on an obscure blog don’t exactly constitute a "review."

BE: Hey, I'm just repeating what I've heard. Don't shoot the messenger here.

CE: Could we move on?

BE: I got you started in philosophy, remember that? I think you learned about Wittgenstein because of me. It's funny, because I'm looking through the index here, under the E's, and, well . . . .

CE: Yeah, I’m sorry about that. It’s just that I found it hard to work Wittgenstein into a book about medical corruption.

BE: But no memory at all of that stuff I've been sending you? All those emails last year? I mean, there's a chapter right here on ghostwriting. Ghostwriting, for God’s sake. Do you see any irony in your writing a chapter on ghostwriting?

CE: Are you suggesting that I plagiarized my book from your email? Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?

BE: And yet, in your last book, Better than Well, you seemed to have no problem mentioning me. For example, you seemed to really enjoy writing about that recurring dream I have where I’m not wearing any pants. About which I am still hearing, by the way. Thanks for that; it never gets old. Especially for my kids in public school.

CE: Right. 8 year-olds are reading my academic books and teasing your kids. You’re absolutely right. I should have thought about that earlier. It’s so obvious now.

BE: Yeah, the sarcasm really helps. You spend a lot of time hectoring, badgering and shaming medical professionals, much like you are doing to me now. Did your years as a teenage bully prepare you for that?

CE: Jesus. What are you talking about?

BE: For example, I'm thinking about the way you played pick-up basketball. You were 16 and played on the varsity team, and I was 11. I was about 60 pounds lighter than you and a foot shorter, but whenever we played one-on-one, you tried to humiliate me. You’d beat me by forty every time and laugh about it.

CE: Are you serious? Basketball? I can’t ever remember you even picking up a basketball when we were little. I didn’t think you even liked basketball.

BE: I remember this one time, you came down with a hard elbow and bloodied my nose. I had to go to the hospital.

CE: I have no memory of any of this.

BE: When I cried, you made fun of me and said, "Walk it off, crybaby." You bounced the ball on my head and dared me to cry some more. You said I whimpered like a little girl. Do your readers know what a misogynist you are?

CE: Ok, you're making stuff up now. That was in a movie.

BE: I don’t make things up, fucker. You’re the one who does that. I gave up basketball after that and spent my teenage years watching reruns and eating junk food. I was afraid to go on the court anymore because of you. I think your readers should know that.

CE: Right. I guess they will now, won’t they?

BE:  More sarcasm. So if they do a paperback, and come up with a less racist title, and tone down your weird obsession with black cowboys, then will you finally give me some credit?

A. Have you even read the book? Other than looking for your name in the index, I mean?

BE: Some of us work for a living and we don't get tenure. If we goof off reading books, we get the can.

A. So you haven’t read it.

BE: I don't need to. I wrote it. Remember the emails?

CE: This is obviously going nowhere. I think we're done.

BE: Ok, thank you for your time, then. Fucker.