Transparency

By

Leonard Zwelling

When people can synthesize videos on YouTube so that celebrities appear to be saying things they never have, there is going to be a growth in cynicism. In this age of “fake news” and Russian malware, how is one going to acquire true information on which to make decisions?

The commonest way is to go to trusted sources. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have his or her own trusted sources from the “failing” New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal, to CNN, Fox and Friends and MSNBC. In essence, whom are you going to trust?

I have developed a system that seems to serve me pretty well.

First, I read as many sources as I can to acquire “news.” I get three newspapers delivered every day, the NYT, the WSJ and the Houston Chronicle.

Second, I read the opinion sections of these newspapers as well as the news and the news analysis. That automatically gives me varying points of view on what are often agreed upon facts. For example, President Trump put tariffs into place. Is that good or bad?

Third, I follow a series of news web sites including CNN, The New York Times and the Houston Chronicle as web content does not always reflect print content and it is usually posted ahead of the print version.

Finally, I watch as much TV news and news commentary as I can mostly on MSNBC, NBC and CNN. I am sorry. Watching Fox a few times has soured me on the exercise. They are so flagrantly biased, I cannot stand it and I find MSNBC and CNN drifting that way as well, but in the leftward direction. None of the cable news outlets really dazzle.

That’s my formula for trying to get a handle on what is really going on in the world. It is surely not foolproof, but it’s about the best anyone can do.

All that being said, the two recent newsworthy articles emanating from MD Anderson, the Chinese firings and the patient death that caused a CMS audit, were handled in the media in such a fashion as to make finding out what really happened very hard. In fact, I’m still not sure in either case.

We know that three Chinese faculty were fired (or resigned ahead of being terminated) and one was not. What is not clear is precisely why. Was it non-disclosure of inappropriate ties to China? Did they steal data? Did they send data or documents to China that were entrusted to their confidential care? I still am not sure. At Emory the statement for justifying the firing of two senior faculty is also a little strange as the faculty definitely disclosed their arrangements with institutions in China, or at least claim to have done so. Emory, like Anderson, has not gotten ahead of the story.

My public relations mentor, Steve Stuyck always taught me, “get it out, get it all out, and get it out the first time.” MD Anderson did not do that with the Chinese faculty issue. In fact, it still hasn’t.

The same may also be true with the CMS audit and the government’s placing the hospital at MD Anderson under its microscope. At first, we were told there was a significant complication or adverse event that caused the federal audit. Now we learn that it was the death of a 23-year old woman with leukemia who was transfused with contaminated blood and, I guess, not monitored once the blood was hung. That latter part is a guess on my part because once again, MD Anderson has not come clean on precisely where the error lies. Was there a foul up in the lab? Did the nurses not do something they ought to have? Again, we are left guessing. Now the redacted CMS notice is out and it looks like there were multiple incidents of transfusion problems from the lack of consent to the poor monitoring of adverse events.

The current leadership of MD Anderson likes to consider itself transparent. I am going to argue that it is anything but.

Why were the Chinese fired and why was the “fifth” faculty member not fired?

What exactly happened to the patient who died and where was the error? Why were procedures not in place to prevent these errors and are they now? Is this a system-wide defect at Anderson or isolated to blood transfusions?

MD Anderson leadership fancies itself beneficent and transparent. As far as I can tell, that remains to be seen.

They cannot get the whole truth out ahead of the media, but doing it now would advance the cause of transparency a great deal.

What happened? Why? What have you done to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Tell us MD Anderson. Tell us.

Leonard Zwelling