The Journal of the American Medical Assn. recently published a very unusual article: a scientific study authored by a sitting president of the United States. That’s never happened before.
In a sense, it’s cool that President Obama cares enough about science to want to publish a paper in one of the world’s leading medical journals. But JAMA has set a bad precedent. The article, on healthcare reform in the United States, is problematic not only in its content but in the threat it poses to the integrity of scientific publishing.
Let’s set aside the debate on whether the specific numbers in the article are factual. (Of course, there is certainly room to question Obama’s data. The president writes that “[t]rends in healthcare costs … have been promising,” even though healthcare spending per capita continues to increase.)
Far more troubling is the president’s tone, which is often self-congratulatory. “I am proud of the policy changes in the [Affordable Care Act],” he writes, “and the progress that has been made toward a more affordable, high-quality, and accessible healthcare system.”
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find another paper in any scientific journal in which a politician was allowed to subjectively analyze his own policy and declare it a success. This is a textbook definition of conflict of interest.
Moreover, despite the scholarly nature of this academic journal, the president seems incapable of resisting political rhetoric. He glazes over contentious details of the ACA with poorly substantiated claims. For instance, he writes, “For most Americans … Marketplaces are working.” Are they? A majority of Americans want ACA repealed, while others would prefer a universal healthcare system.
The AMA sold its soul for Obamacare and has a vested interest in the program’s continued infliction upon the American public. It is so far afield from its original mandate that it has now let a respected and necessary scientific journal basically become USA Today for political purposes.
In a sane world, an organization that purports to represent physicians and medicine wouldn’t be committed to a heavy-handed governmental approach to medicine that’s making physicians want to stop practicing. Letting a self-aggrandizing pathological attention freak co-opt a serious publication just so they can all feel better about their unholy alliance should destroy the organization’s credibility forever.
At least we know the president has a couple of friends in the medical profession who can help if he gets hurt patting himself on the back at their request.