Transatlantic Chancers

by Kieran Healy on April 23, 2005

A “sad story”: in the Times today about a woman from Limerick who died following a facelift at the hands of a self-promoting “New York surgeon”:

Mrs. Cregan had left her home in rural Ireland two days before, telling her husband, a farmer and part-time plumber, that she would be attending a business course in Dublin. In fact she had flown to the United States to have a face-lift performed by Dr. Michael E. Sachs in his offices on Central Park South. Hours after surgery she went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital. … Examining Mrs. Cregan’s knapsack after her death, her family found a folded copy of an article from The Sunday Independent of Ireland. It was a glowing account of a face-lift performed by Dr. Sachs, “a leading cosmetic and facial reconstruction surgeon” in the United States, the article said, with a “highly confidential client list.”

Sachs appears to have drummed up interest in Ireland via a story in the “Sunday Indo”: Magazine about a facelift he performed on an Irish woman for free, in exchange for the publicity. Sachs seems like a dodgy character:

Dr. Sachs is among the most sued doctors in New York State, having settled 33 malpractice suits since 1995 … last year the State Health Department took the extraordinary step of banning Dr. Sachs – an ear, nose and throat specialist – from performing complex nasal surgeries without the supervision of another surgeon; … the operating room in his office is not accredited … [and] while he states on his Web site that he has been affiliated with the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary “for the last 23 years,” he is not affiliated with that hospital or any other.

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Samuel Johnson on blogging

by Henry Farrell on April 23, 2005

Amardeep Singh at the Valve presents us with a long quote from Samuel Johnson on aesthetics. It’s a nice quote, but I prefer the one below the fold (taken from The Rambler no. 106), which seems quite apposite to the enterprise of blogging.
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by John Q on April 23, 2005

The latest London Review of Books[1] has a great review article by David Runciman (subscription only, unfortunately). The books covered are Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business and Healthcare by Dennis Thompson , NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Healthcare by Allyson Pollock and Brown’s Britain by Robert Peston.

Of these, I’m most interested in the book by Pollock, who’s been a prominent critic of the Private Finance Initiative, particularly in relation to health care. I think the biggest problems with the PFI are going to emerge ten or twenty years into the contracts, when any safeguards written into the original contracts will be obsolete, and the private party will have an incentive to extract as much rent as possible from the remaining life of the deal.

The whole idea of governments signing these long-term contracts is dubious in many respects. It’s bad public policy for a government to bind its successors in this way. And it’s bad commercial policy to sign 30-year contracts for services where ordinary principles of risk allocation would suggest a term more like five years. The PFI and similar initiatives have already run into plenty of problems, but I think the worst is yet to come.

A particularly egregious example came to light in Australia recently. The late, and not much lamented Kennett government signed contracts giving monopoly rights to operate gambling enterprises to two firms, Tabcorp and Tattersalls.

It now emerges that, if these contracts are not renewed, obscure clauses entitle the monopolists to compensation of up to $1 billion.

fn1. That is, the latest to reach Australia.\