Perhaps Enrico Benedetti, head of U of I's surgery department, said it best while debating the pros and cons of the ad in an email, obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act: "On one side it would be a lot of free publicity for our program, on the other side we could be criticized to be included in an industry generated campaign."
And therein lies the rub—a hospital can promote its expertise with a specific medical device in a number of ways, so long as it is the hospital that pays for the ad.
"It is not unusual for health systems and medical centers to promote their use of a specific advanced technology, such as the 64-Slice CT for coronary angiography, Gamma Knife for applying image guided radiation to brain tumors, or the da Vinci Robot for minimally invasive robotic surgery. The ads typically promote the benefits of these newer technologies," Dan Dunlop, CEO of Jennings, a North Carolina-based healthcare marketing agency told me. I exchanged emails with Dunlop this week. "However," he wrote, "they don't cross the line of actually endorsing the product. They are typically presented as one treatment option that the institution has in its arsenal."
But by appearing to endorse the product, the U of I's sullied its ethical standing in public's perception.