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EDITORIAL: SMDC shows courage by challenging status quo

Sometimes, a small gesture speaks loudly.

That's the case with the SMDC Health System, which is ridding itself of promotional drug company trinkets to demonstrate it won't be influenced by favors -- even tiny ones.

Collected were items such as coffee mugs, note pads, pens and the like -- 20 shopping carts of them. They will be shipped to Cameroon, where they are much more needed than here.

Some people might think it absurd that medical professionals could be influenced by such gifts. Over the years, however, pharmaceutical manufactures have sought to bolster sales with much bigger incentives. When VCRs were new, for example, some companies gave them to doctors who wrote a given number of their prescriptions. That's certainly not an ethical way to practice medicine -- and obviously not one that patients would endorse.

These days, big drug companies have somewhat redirected marketing efforts by proffering their wares on TV, sponsoring commercials that most laymen don't understand. Even worse, their ads for sexual dysfunction medications are virtually X-rated. The industry seems incapable of self regulation.

That's the best part of SMDC's initiative. It has emerged from within the healthcare industry. It suggests the regional healthcare provider sets high standards for itself and plays a leadership role among its peers. Had this initiative been sought from the U.S. Congress, the debate, or lack thereof, might have continued into the next decade, if not the next century.