Rationing healthcare

A recurring link in my facebook feed today was to an article in the NY Times Magazine on rationing health care. It’s worth reading, but the this made me squirm a bit:

But even in emergency rooms, people without health insurance may receive less health care than those with insurance. Joseph Doyle, a professor of economics at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., studied the records of people in Wisconsin who were injured in severe automobile accidents and had no choice but to go to the hospital. He estimated that those who had no health insurance received 20 percent less care and had a death rate 37 percent higher than those with health insurance. This difference held up even when those without health insurance were compared with those without automobile insurance, and with those on Medicaid — groups with whom they share some characteristics that might affect treatment. The lack of insurance seems to be what caused the greater number of deaths.

Oh correlation/causation fallacy, I long for your demise. At least he said “seems.”


Hangwringing about conference blogging from Nature

Lav pointed out this article in Nature on concerns over blogging about talks at conferences. It contains gems such as:

“I could take pictures of every slide and it would be on the Internet within seconds.” — Lars Jensen


MacArthur’s comprehensive postings were read by many scientists but they irked journalists attending the meeting. The meeting rules stated that reporters had to seek permission from speakers before publishing material on their work…


This kind of direct-to-web exposure creates problems for many industrial and applied researchers. In the United States, patent applications must be filed within a year of any information becoming available to the public. The exact date of that ‘public disclosure’ used to be difficult to nail down, but no more, says Michael Natan, chief executive officer of Oxonica Materials, a nanotechnology company in Mountain View, California. In the Internet age, time-stamped photographs of a talk can let competitors know the exact minute a researcher presented a patentable result. Consequently, “people in industry will be much more circumspect about what they present in public”, he says.

So I know I don’t work on Science (with a capital S) and that a I’m not the most knowledgeable guy out there. I do know from talking to friends that there is sometime shady behavior involving scooping of other labs by stealing ideas and fast-tracking a paper, but this article is a bit too paranoid.

  • Industry is already circumspect about what they present in public. I don’t think blogging is going to make them any more paranoid — patent firms already hire PhD engineers to comb the conference proceedings and literature to prove ideas were disclosed publically or invented too early in order to limit the scope of patents.
  • Who the hell would take pictures of every slide? Lars Jensen himself thinks it’s ridiculous (see the comments on the article) and the reporter here is definitely ginning up the controversy.
  • Going to a conference and talking publicly about your research is public disclosure. Sorry dudes, but we should not indulge in Clintonian verbal acrobatics.
  • If Cold Spring Harbor wants to force journalists to abide by ridiculous disclosure rules, then they should do what MILCOM does and have classified sessions.