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Post & Courier Readers, Beware Of Industry Flacks

Ken Burger

Charleston’s Post & Courier appears to have embraced the sketchy practice of running columns by industry-sponsored columnists, who inevitably blur the crucial line between independent commentator and shill. In this case, former P&C columnist Ken Burger has returned to the paper, but now with backing from Roper Medical Center. Nothing personal against Burger, but red flags are flying.

Gary Schwitzer at Health News Review asks some of the right questions, including:

  • How will the column explore “the major issues facing us nationally”?
  • Will it be only Roper’s perspective?
  • Will it truly be a national perspective?
  • Who decides which stories are “untold” and should be addressed in the column? And how they will be addressed?
  • Will, for example, untold stories of overdiagnosis and overtreatment be told in this health care provider-sponsored column?
  • While the health care provider boasts on its website, “We were the first in the state to bring you CyberKnife and the first in the Lowcountry to offer the da Vinci robot,” will the column explore some of the growing questions about some of the non-evidence-based proliferation of such technologies? (An example of Cyberknife questions here; just the latest on many robotic surgery questions here.)
  • While the health care provider boasts on its website about $125 screening for cardiac calcium scoring (among other screenings), will the column explore evidence-based recommendations such as that by the US Preventive Services Task Force that recommends against such screening in low-risk people?

Here’s hoping that some P&C shotcaller rethinks this decision…