Information, Access and Self Responsibility

With all the talk about the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own health care, this story about a drug used to treat Parkinson’s Disease highlights the fundamental “weakness” in the argument.  You must “know” in order to act responsibly.  Read this quote:

Kodam dismissed the existing warnings as too little too late: “The warning label is a joke,” he said. “To bury five to six words on Page 17 when the effects are so catastrophic is ridiculous. You need a clear descriptive warning label and notification to doctors to ask patients about this potential effect.”

So, how will you know that you have the information necessary to make the decision?  Who is teaching you how to analyze, synthesize, and rationalize?

To make matters more complex, some information (also known as concepts or ideas) is protected be patent.  For example, today in an essay published in the New York Times, Michael Crichton tells us the following can’t be used without royalties being paid to the owner of the patent:

Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

He drives his point home with this conclusion:

Oh, and by the way: I own the patent for “essay or letter criticizing a previous publication.” So anyone who criticizes what I have said here had better pay a royalty first, or I’ll see you in court.

Of course, you may defend youself in court with the “prior art” defense, and certainly may cite examples of Ben Franklin’s essays as part of your defense (providing of course, you recognize any and all rights to publications cited as reference for such essays).  But, that costs money, takes time and certainly creates a barrier to access to information that, in my unpatented opinion, should not exist.

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