David J. Rothman is an American author and professor of Social Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He also serves as the President of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. Rothman's work has focused on the social history of American medicine and current health care practices. His scholarship has also explored human rights in medicine, including organ trafficking, AIDS among Romanian orphans, and the ethics of research in third-world countries.
In 1971, Rothman wrote The Discovery of the Asylum, in which he explored mental hospitals, prisons, and almshouses. The book was co-winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association.
In 2003, with an endowment from the Open Society Institute and George Soros, Rothman founded the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, an organization dedicated to making medical professionalism a field and a force. Through his work at IMAP, he has published: “Medical Professionalism; Focusing on the Real Issues” (NEJM, 2000); “New Federal Guidelines for Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry Relations,” (with Susan Chimonas, Health Affairs, 2005); “Marketing HPV Vaccine,” (with Sheila Rothman, JAMA, 2009). He also co-authored “From Disclosure to Transparency: The Use of Company Payment Data,” (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010), “Medical Communication Companies and Industry Grants,” (JAMA, 2013), and “Political Polarization of Physicians in the United States: An Analysis of Campaign Contributions to Federal Elections, 1991 Through 2012,” (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014).
Rothman has co-chaired two task forces whose recommendation have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association: "Health Industry Practices that Create Conflicts of Interest: A Policy Proposal for Academic Medical Centers" (2006) and "Professional Medical Associations and Their Relationships with Industry: A Proposal for Controlling Conflicts of Interest" (2009).
Together with the Open Society Foundations, Rothman convened a task force to address physician involvement in detention, interrogation, and torture. A resulting report entitled Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror was published in November 2013.
Rothman lives in New York City with his wife and frequent co-author, Professor Sheila M. Rothman.
The Shame of Medical Research
In an article titled "'The Shame of Medical Research'" that was published in November 2000, Rothman wrote:
- Until the 1990s American medical researchers performed most of their experiments on other Americans—frequently choosing subjects who were poor and vulnerable. Now, however, they are increasingly likely to conduct their investigations in third world countries on subjects who are even poorer and more vulnerable. Part of the reason is AIDS—the first modern infectious disease to strike the developed and developing world simultaneously and to give both a large stake in finding a cure. Part of the reason, too, is the mounting financial and regulatory burdens of research in the rich nations, which cause investigators, both from universities and drug companies, to go to the poorer countries to test new treatments.
- Whatever the reason, practice has overwhelmed ethics. The major international codes on human experimentation, including the principles proclaimed at Nuremberg in 1947 and the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki in 1964, all say that the well-being of the subject always should take precedence over the needs of science or the interests of society, and that doctors must obtain “the subject’s freely informed consent.” But neither these codes nor the Western groups concerned with medical ethics have had the developing countries in mind. Countries in which clinical trials are now conducted are often too poor to pay for the medicines that are successfully tested. And the people recruited for those trials very seldom get the kind of medical care the participants in trials in prosperous countries can expect. Whether Western principles covering the treatment of people who are the subjects of research can and should be applied in Africa and Asia has become a bitterly debated question.
- Politics and Power: The United States Senate, 1869-1901 (1966)
- The Discovery of the Asylum (1971)
- Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America (1980)
- The Willowbrook Wars (1984, co-authored with Sheila M. Rothman)
- Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision-making (1991)
- Medicine and Western Civilization (1995, co-edited with S. Marcus and S. Kiceluk)
- Beginnings Count: The Technological Imperative in American Health Care (1997)
- The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enhancement (2003, co-authored with Sheila M. Rothman)
- Trust Is Not Enough (2006, co-authored with Sheila M. Rothman)
- Medical Professionalism in the New Information Age (2010, co-edited with David Blumenthal)
- Rothman DJ (November 2000). "The shame of medical research". The New York Review of Books. 47 (19): 60–4. PMID 11808621.