In the January 3, 2008 issue of the world’s best and most important medical journal –The New England Journal of Medicine – Gregory D. Curfman, M.D., Stephen Morrissey, Ph.D., and Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D. discuss a case before the Supreme Court – Riegel v. Medtronic. The case involves whether state law and federal law conflict in a product liability suit. I don’t know anything about the legal issues involved, but found the following sentence revealing:

“Ultimately, we believe that the pivotal question for the justices in Riegel v. Medtronic resides in what is in the best interest of American society.”

A lot of people think this way. Forget about what the law says, courts should do what they think is right. We might as well disband the congress (I know the idea has appeal) and let five lawyers decide what’s best for the country. Plato would likely approve, but I don’t think George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt would.

I bring this up because this type of thinking is the rule among the leaders of my profession. I’ll soon post a piece about health insurance from another leading medical organ that again reflects this type of reasoning.

In the meanwhile I hope the court makes a decision based on what it thinks the law says. And while it won’t happen, the NEJM should forget about law and stick to medicine.