On Gifts

In the world of medicine, gifts and gift giving also take many forms and come in a variety of packages. All of us who have labored through gross anatomy have benefited from the selfless act of those who gave their bodies to medical education. Many public service announcements promote organ donation by urging individuals to give the "Gift of Life" to potential organ recipients. In many communities, patients show their appreciation to their physicians with home-baked goods and similar gifts. While these examples appear harmless, if not beneficial, other examples of gift giving in medicine raise concerns. Despite the relationship between medicine and industry in promoting quality patient care and scientific research, the potential for undue influence generated by gifts to physicians from industry is serious and demands attention and redress by the medical profession and others. Thus, the consequences of gift giving and of framing potential actions as acts of giving are far from benign and unbound; rather, they may have profound effects on medicine and society.

Volume 2, Number 12: