AT ANY COST: Corporate Greed, Women, and the Dalkon Shield by Morton Mintz

AT ANY COST: Corporate Greed, Women, and the Dalkon Shield

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Another perspective on what surely must be the best documented example of corporate malfeasance in recent memory--the marketing and defense of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device by the A.H. Robins Company (which has just filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Act). Washington Post reporter Mintz has crammed a lot of information into this book, although much of it makes better reading in two earlier works on this subject: Englemayer & Wagman's Lord's Justice and Perry and Dawson's Nightmare. What's new in Mintz's account is his careful exposition of conflicts of interest among the Shield's originators and among later researchers who wrote about or evaluated it (many were directly or indirectly on the Robins payroll); many of these were effectively hidden from doctors, congressional investigators and the FDA. He's equally effective in deflating the various expert witnesses Robins was able to garner to testify that the Shield was no less effective--or more dangerous--than other IUDs. But by trying to cover all the angles in this particular story, he ultimately makes it somewhat confusing: no clear picture of the players emerge, although many appear to have made key decisions or authored important documents; also, the same episodes recur in several chapters, making the chronology hazy as well. Mintz's frequent ""revelations"" (not always as shocking or unusual as he would have the reader believe) and his righteous indignation can be wearing--company memoranda and testimony are sufficiently damning on their own, and E. Claiborne Robins, Jr. is hardly the first American corporate baron to play the roles of corporate sinner and philanthropic saint simultaneously. In addition, Mintz's plugs for his own 1970 book on the Pill (he has written extensively on pharmaceutical and corporate subjects) are a minor irritation. Although the Dalkon Shield and corporate greed figure largely in the narrative as well as in the title, women, the victims of the story, are lost in the shuffle. While he opens the book with several predictably sad case histories, Mintz never explores the predominantly male thinking that may have served to prolong the Shield's life, or the role that women on the Robins staff played (or failed to play) in its demise. Some new material here, but the basic story has been more artfully told elsewhere.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1985
Publisher: Pantheon