EXCLUSIVE: Contradicting right-wing paper, NE Journal of Medicine says its editors had nothing to do with doctor “survey”

The New England Journal of Medicine said yesterday that its editors had nothing to do with the decision to publish an unscientific email “survey” in an employment newsletter and on the NEJM's “CareerCenter” website.

The new NEJM statement, which was provided exclusively to Media Matters, directly contradicts speculation in a March 17 Investor's Business Daily editorial and further undermines the poll's credibility.

First, here's the back-story:

In recent days, a number of right-wing media outlets have been falsely claiming that the “prestigious” New England Journal of Medicine conducted, commissioned, and/or published a dubious, three-month old email “survey” purporting to show that large numbers of doctors will attempt to leave medicine if health care reform passes. As evidence, these media cited a write-up of the “survey” that appeared not in the NEJM itself, but rather on NEJM's “CareerCenter” website and in Recruiting Physicians Today -- an employment newsletter produced by “the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine.

On Wednesday afternoon, Media Matters reported that the conservative claims were false; that the poll was in fact conducted by a medical recruitment company called the Medicus Firm; that Medicus had actually written the report conservatives were citing; that the NEJM did not publish the “survey”; and that the “survey” -- according to an NEJM spokesperson -- had “nothing to do with the New England Journal of Medicine's original research.”

Now, here are the new developments:

Apparently undeterred by the above facts, the right-wing Investor's Business Daily editorial board declared that because of NEJM's “prestigious” nature, the Medicus poll confirmed the results of IBD's own highly suspect doctor survey from last summer. In an editorial published Wednesday evening, IBD insisted that what it falsely described as the “new” Medicus poll must surely have been vetted by NEJM's editors. IBD wrote:

Why bring all this back up? For no other reason than to note that a new poll completely vindicates our findings of last summer.

This poll, conducted by the Medicus Firm, a physician search and consulting outfit, found that 29.2% of the nearly 1,200 doctors it queried said they would quit or retire early if a health overhaul were passed into law. That number jumped to 45.7% - nearly identical to our own - if a public option were included.

This poll, by the way, was published as an insert in the New England Journal of Medicine - one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world.

While the poll doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the journal, would the editors allow a poll in their peer-reviewed medical publication if they thought it were false? Not likely.

In the end, it's clear: A health care overhaul, as it's now being pushed, could lead to a precipitous drop in the number of doctors.

Media Matters contacted NEJM yesterday to ask about IBD's speculation that the NEJM editors must have reviewed the poll. Unsurprisingly, the speculation is untrue.

According to NEJM spokesperson Jennifer Zeis, “NEJM editors had nothing to do with the decision of placing [the Medicus survey] on the CareerCenter. The survey did not go through NEJM's peer-review process. The CareerCenter has nothing to do with NEJM's editorial process.”

Zeis also confirmed that the NEJM editors did not approve the inclusion of the “survey” in the employment newsletter, Recruiting Physicians Today. Zeis added that “the NEJM editors have nothing to do with 'Recruiting Physicians Today.' ”

Zeis also stated that the Medicus “survey” “was not published in the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine.”