Eloquent and forceful on the page or the podium, Dr. Arnold Relman led the New England Journal of Medicine for more than 13 years, raising a sometimes lonely voice to warn about the dangers of for-profit medicine when many in politics and his profession raced to embrace a free market approach.
Dr. Relman also was one of the nation’s foremost writers about the rising cost of health care. Persistent to the end, he received the galleys of his final article just a few days before he died of cancer in his Cambridge home early Tuesday, on his 91st birthday.
During more than a dozen years editing the New England Journal, he expanded the reach of the august research publication and made it a forum where a rapidly evolving field’s top writers debated the day’s most important economic, ethical, and public policy issues.
“We should not allow the medical-
industrial complex to distort our health care system to its own entrepreneurial ends,” he wrote in an early editorial. The response in the health care world was mixed, with some praising Dr. Relman and others suggesting he did not grasp the market forces at work.
Dr. Jerome Kassirer, who succeeded Dr. Relman as editor and is now a distinguished professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine, said that “by publishing an enormous number of important studies of the health care system, he helped to formulate the debate. In his time, there were no other strong sources that you could go to for discussion of these issues. The New England Journal was it.”
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week