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December 2, 2010
Ghostwriting On the Larger Scale
You've heard, no doubt, of the problem of ghostwritten articles associated with the drug industry. But now there's a report of an entire ghostwritten book. It is (was, since it came out over ten years ago) a guide for family physicians on psychiatric pharmacotherapy, and its authors - scratch that, I mean the names on the cover - are the current chairman of the psychiatry department at Miami and the former chairman at Stanford.
Now, it's not like these two would have been likely to sit down and write the book themselves under normal conditions, either. Had they been so minded, they would surely have farmed out the work to lesser colleagues. Textbook writing like this is not an exalted activity. But from what this article says, it does look as if a medical writing firm working with SmithKline did the actual grunt work, and that it was the company that had final approval over the page proofs.
I have no idea if the content of the book is accurate or not, but that's really only a secondary point. Signing your name as an author to something written by someone else, for their own interests, is unethical. That's the point.
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