Today is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, a day for looking back over the past year and doing some serious self-examination.
It is a day of apology.
As I look back over this past year, which has been awash in instances of deception and greed in medicine, banking, and insurance, I am struck by the lack of apologies.
For example, in response to recent revelations that Pfizer repressed negative data on Neurontin, the company released this statement: “Study results are reported by Pfizer in an objective, accurate, balanced, and complete manner, with a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the study, and are reported regardless of the outcome of the study or the country in which the study was conducted.”
After it became clear that Charles Nemeroff hid vast amounts of income from Emory University, he said: “To the best of my knowledge, I have followed the appropriate university regulations concerning financial disclosures.”
And, responding to evidence that Alan Schatzberg had disclosed only a small portion of his financial interests in a drug company he co-founded, Stanford said: “Stanford University shares Sen. Grassley’s concerns about disclosures of conflicts of interest and ensuring that such conflicts to not influence the conduct of medical research. Based on our extensive investigation to date, we believe that Dr. Alan Schatzbert, a member of the medical school faculty, has fully complied with the university’s rigorous conflict of interest policy.”
We all make mistakes. The process of forgiveness begins with an honest self-assessment.
Teams of lawyers are advising these individuals and institutions that they cannot admit any wongdoing at any time, even as they are surrounded by dense clouds of guilt.
A simple “sorry” would go a long way.