Letter Requesting Ban on the Demonstration of Medical Interventions

July 12, 2002

Attachment 1: Letter to Johns Hopkins urging cancellation of "Botox Night" 
Attachment 2: Response from Johns Hopkins

Jordan Cohen, M.D.
President
Association of American Medical Colleges
2450 N. St, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 828-1125

Dear Dr. Cohen:

As you probably know, Public Citizen recently became aware of a "Botox Night" at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As originally planned, the July 11th event would have featured free attendance and refreshments, a demonstration of the use of Botox in treating wrinkles and then an offer of on-the-spot Botox at a reduced rate ($100 instead of the customary $500) to those who desired it. The invitees included medical students, residents, faculty and staff at the university.

As we stated in a July 9 letter to Johns Hopkins Dean and Chief Executive Officer, Edward D. Miller, MD (see Attachment 1), "This event is unseemly, unprofessional and undermines the core educational mission of the university." We called on the university to cancel the event and thereby "send a clear message to students that Johns Hopkins emphasizes professionalism over commercialism in medicine."

The university subsequently decided to not administer Botox at this event (see Attachment 2, Letter from Dr. Miller to the Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology). Furthermore, we have learned from the Johns Hopkins press office that the university plans to develop a policy whereby the demonstration of non-therapeutic procedures would be banned throughout the university (Gary Stephenson, oral communication, July 12, 2002).

To our knowledge, Johns Hopkins is the first medical school to have planned such an event. Given the increasing commercialization of medicine, including the proliferation of "Botox parties", and its corrosive impact upon the credibility of the profession and the nation s medical schools, the time seems ripe to develop a national policy for medical schools that would preclude the demonstration or administration of medical interventions such as Botox. (This would not prevent demonstrations of how to take blood pressure or other demonstrations intended for educational purposes.) The American Academy of Dermatology has already criticized such parties as "inappropriate and potentially dangerous settings for patients." We call on you to immediately formulate such a policy and to urge all medical schools to comply.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H.
Deputy Director
Public Citizen's Health Research Group

Eileen Ringel, M.D.
Researcher
Public Citizen s Health Research Group
Practicing Dermatologist
Adjunct Clinical Professor
Dartmouth Medical School

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.
Director
Public Citizen s Health Research Group