Checkbook Science

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In 1984 a federal jury in San Francisco found Dow Corning’s breast implants were “defectively designed and manufactured.” Maria Stern was awarded $1.7 M after internal corporate memos and studies show that Dow had failed to warn the public of the health risks associated with breast implants. Evidence from the case was sealed by the courts.

Although Stern’s case received media attention, it wasn’t until December 1990 when seriously ill women claiming their breast implants caused their conditions were featured on Connie Chung’s Face to Face the subject received major media attention and a “frenzy” of women became concerned. The program was immediately followed by two more major court losses for Dow Corning in 1991, $4.5M to a woman in New York and $7.4M to Marianne Hopkins. Again, Dow’s internal documents were used to prove fraud.

Dow hired public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to do damage control. The firm warned Dow of “the potential for a corporate media crisis.” From May 1991 through February 1992 (less than a year), Dow Corning was billed $3.78M by Burson Marsteller. This was a significant increase from the $6,000 in fees Dow had paid the firm in 1990, just one year prior.

Confidence Game: B-M’s PR Plan for Silicone Breast Implants” (Quarter 1, 1996) was an in-depth article detailing the PR plan. The heart of the campaign to rehabilitate Dow Corning’s reputation consisted of producing scientific data from “seemingly independent, ‘third party’ sources” which would show silicone, and the implants, were safe.

Checkbook, or junk science, is a common ploy used by corporations. Sheller PC’s founding partner, Stephen A. Sheller, examines the tactic in Chapter 10 of his book Lawyering In Times of Saints and Evil Doers:

“Their goal appears to have been to create a body of exonerating science that they could use to settle cases still in state court and discourage future plaintiffs from filing suit. If enough peer-reviewed journal articles could be published that claim their products were safe after all, [corporation] would have legal grounds to prevent plaintiffs from presenting expert testimony to the contrary. Never mind that [corporation] paid physicians to write and review these articles, and that the authors themselves were on the [corporations] payroll.”

Dow’s “checkbook science” studies were published in prestigious journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In 1996, PBS Frontline did a counter-piece promoting Dr. Marcia Angell, editor of the NEJM at the time. She had overseen publication of the Mayo Clinic and Harvard studies which both found no evidence that the implants caused illness. She dismissed claims that a manufacture’s financial support of scientific research studies would have an effect on the outcome.

“The decision to underwrite what I consider to be fraudulent Mayo Clinic and Harvard studies endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of women who were not only unaware of the dangers of their implants, they were told implants were safe” says Sheller in his book.

Five years after her appearance on Frontline, Dr. Angell has reversed her position. She now admits that most studies are bought and paid for. She recently appeared on Sheryl Attkisson’s television program Full Measure to discuss how most pharmaceuticals companies consider researchers “hired hands” and how they only publish studies that they consider favorable.

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published.” -Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine

However, Dr. Angell and other born-again critics have not suggested retracting these bad studies which would make it easier for plaintiff’s attorneys to contradictory opinions in court testimony. These bad studies continue to muddy the waters as to the safety of products, and make it difficult for those injured by products to be compensated.

The issues of cover-up is going well from a long-term perspective.” Dan Hayes, CEO Dow Corning in an internal company memo (PR Watch Q1, 1996)

For more than 25 years, checkbook science and pr marketing campaigns have contributed to the injury of hundreds of thousands of women, unaware that their breast implants could be making them sick. Symptoms typically don’t develop for about 10 years. Symptoms are seemingly unrelated and often resemble rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma. These include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Rashes
  • Join pain and stiffness
  • Night sweats
  • Skin tightness
  • Swollen glands
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

If you have these symptoms and believe that they may be related to your breast implants, see your doctor. And call at 800-883-2299 or fill out the inquiry form on this page. Sheller PC has represented hundreds of women injured by breast implant.

Even in the 1990’s, Stephen Sheller was discussing breast implant studies that “have no merit whatsoever, misleading the public, causing women to think implants may be safe when they aren’t.”

Lawyering in Times of Saints and Evil Doers, Stephen Sheller

Pharmageddon: A Nation Betrayed, Stephen Sheller

Confidence Game: B-M’s PR Plan for Silicone Breast Implants, PR Watch, Q1, 1996

Fake Science, Full Measure, Aug. 6, 2017

Frontline, PBS, 1999

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