Bioethics Blogs

Remembering Dr. Arnold Relman

Accomplished physician, professor, and scholar Arnold “Bud” Relman, MD, passed away on June 17, his 91st birthday. A longtime skeptic of for-profit health care, Dr. Relman is best known for having led The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) for more than 13 years, serving as editor from 1977 to 1990. Throughout his career, Dr. Relman served as an influential voice in medicine and research, encouraging Americans to be cognizant of rising health care costs and the need for a more standardized system of health insurance.

Dr. Relman, who was originally from Queens, NY, received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He spent much of his career, however, in Boston. From 1951 to 1968, Dr. Relman served as professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and years later, after a term at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, returned to Boston to serve as editor of NEJM.

Dr. Relman’s enduring legacy in the research world can be seen through his work at NEJM. Not only did the journal benefit from both increased profits and circulation during his tenure, but it also became “the first medical journal to require authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest if they owned stock in biomedical companies when they published research that might benefit those firms (The Boston Globe).”

His interest in conflicts of interest extended into his research as well. In his scholarly pursuits, Dr. Relman addressed the difficult issue of finding a balance between self-interest and ethical standards.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.