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Physicians testified for tobacco companies against plaintiffs with cancer, Stanford study finds
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, a small group of otolaryngologists have repeatedly testified, on behalf of the tobacco industry, that heavy smoking did not cause the cancer in cases of dying patients suing for damages, according to a study by a Stanford University School of Medicine researcher.
“I was shocked by the degree to which these physicians were willing to testify, in my opinion in an unscientific way, to deny a dying plaintiff — suffering the aftermath of a lifetime of smoking — of a fair trial,” said Robert Jackler, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, referring to the physicians cited in the study as a “pool of experts willing to say over and over again that smoking didn’t cause cancer.”
The study was published online July 17 in Laryngoscope.
Jackler reviewed the scientific literature to see if testimony by expert witnesses for the tobacco industry was supported by evidence. He said that a physician serving as expert has an ethical obligation to interpret the scientific data in a fair and balanced manner. The literature, he found, repeatedly repudiated the testimony. “The study found they used scientifically invalid methods to support their testimony,” he said.
Scientific literature demonstrates that tobacco directly contributes to head and neck cancers at a greater than 50 percent likelihood, Jackler said.
“The tobacco industry identifies the best experts that money can buy, trains them in their well-honed narrative to manufacture doubt in the minds of the jury and makes use of them over and over in case after case,” the study said.