Last Sunday’s front-page article “Cancer science leans more on industry funds” brings to light yet another disturbing example of increasing corporate influence and power in America. This trend is particularly troubling with respect to cancer research, where the only goal should be to reduce human suffering.
That the influence of corporate funding at institutions doing cancer research is on the rise, while public funding is ebbing, does not bode well for the public at large. Substantial corporate funding, and thus corporate influence, increases the likelihood that hospital research will be focused not solely on the public good, but rather on increasing corporate profits. While the public interest is most strongly promoted by general scientific research, corporate interests often involve the financial success of particular products, which are manufactured by particular corporations.
This is another frightening instance of a growing trend in our country. It recalls how the Supreme Court, overruling decades of precedent, allowed unlimited corporate spending in political campaigns. Now large corporate contributions are a commonplace in American politics. The right political candidates, for corporate interests, thereby stand a greater chance of being elected to office because money translates into votes.
One day we may find that maximizing corporate profits is most, if not all, of what scientific research is all about. Shame on us if we allow that to happen.