Sunday, January 17, 2010

Conflict of interests at ASHA

Peter Reitzes dug out some very interesting facts which suggests significant conflict of interests at ASHA. Here is the text from their website:
During today's episode Peter Reitzes and Eric Jackson discuss our thoughts and concerns regarding the LinguiSystems "Outcomes Guaranteed" statement and "Guaranteed Outcomes." We discuss our strong concerns regarding the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's initial response and urge ASHA to look closely at its Code of Ethics. We discuss the financial aspects of this situation and strongly urge ASHA to voluntarily and proactively look into such matters and to launch investigations when necessary. A fuller show summary with links to web pages and documents discussed are available below so that listeners and the public can decide for themselves.
Peter wrote a letter to the Board of Directors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association which is available here at the Stuttering Brain Blog.
During Episode 173 of StutterTalk we review StutterTalk episode 171 in which we discussed LinguiSystems' statement on "Outcomes Guaranteed!" The LinguiSystems products discussed are Easy Does It for Fluency: Preschool/Primary with a guaranteed outcome of "Use easy speech in real-life speaking situations" and Fluency Card Games which boasts a guaranteed outcome of  "Speak confidently." 
Then we discuss the fact that LinguiSystems' Co-owners/Founders, Linda Bowers & Rosemary Huisingh, are both speech-language pathologists and members of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and are therefore bound by the ASHA Code of Ethics. The LinguiSystems website states that LinguiSytems is "the first company to be founded and operated by speech-language pathologists."
According to ASHA’s Code of Ethics, “Individuals shall not guarantee the results of any treatment or procedure, directly or by implication...”, “Individuals' statements to the public…shall not contain misrepresentations.”, “Individuals shall not misrepresent…products dispensed...” and “Individuals shall not engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation…”
On the surface it appears that advertisements used by LinguiSystems, a company owned by two ASHA certified speech-language pathologists, may directly violate ASHA's Code of Ethics in regards to their guaranteed outcomes.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation receive revenue and donations from LinguiSystems. For example, The ASHA Leader runs LinguiSystems advertisements. LinguiSystems is a vendor at ASHA conventions and sells its products at ASHA conventions.
LinguiSystems gives tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation and is featured as a "Generous Supporter" on the Foundation's website. StutterTalk has invited several prominent members and representatives of ASHA to join us on air at StutterTalk to publicly discuss these issues so that ASHA may share their views and clarify their positions on ethics, advertising and related matters.
StutterTalk reports that Linda Bowers (co-owner of LinguiSystems) is past President and past Board Member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation as can be verified on the Foundation's 990 Forms linked to below.
Other pertinent documents are the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association's recent 990 Forms:
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's 2004 Form 990
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's 2005 Form 990
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's 2006 Form 990
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's 2007 Form 990
We also discuss the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association's recent Audited Financial Statements:
  • ASHA's Audited Financial Statement: 2008
  • ASHA's Audited Financial Statement: 2007
  • ASHA's Audited Financial Statement: 2006
  • ASHA's Audited Financial Statement: 2005
In 2008 ASHA reported having 130, 828 members. In 2008,  it appears that ASHA's program expenses on ethics was $347, 956. This means that ASHA is spending about $2.65 per member a year on ethics...about the price of one latte per member. We expressed that ASHA should strongly consider placing more resources and interest into ethics.

StutterTalk also compared reported data from some of the documents linked to above. In 2008, as we said, it appears that ASHA's program expenses on ethics was $347, 956. It appears that in 2008, ASHA's program expenses on multicultural affairs was $872, 533 - more than twice the amount of the program expenses for ethics. In our opinion, multicultural affairs are certainly important, but they are not twice as important as ethics.

In ASHA's 2007 990 Form it is reported that ASHA's Executive Director received $269, 998 in compensation and $173,260 in compensation paid to employee benefit plans and deferred compensation plans. In total then, it appears that the Executive Director of ASHA made $443,258 in total compensation, which is more then the 2008 ASHA program expenses on ethics. It is suggested that ASHA's program expenses on ethics may benefit from being higher then the total compensation given to ASHA's Executive Director. 

We urged ASHA to:
  • Look into LinguiSystems and their "Outcomes Guaranteed" and "Guaranteed Outcomes" statements and promotions.
  • Put ethics and ethical considerations before financial considerations, to
  • Initiate ethical investigations on its own and to fully accept its role in enforcing the Code of Ethics, to
  • Carefully screen and take notice of the actions of donors and companies ASHA does business with, and to
  • Take its own Code of Ethics seriously.

2 comments:

sachin said...

We expect better response from ASHA in the interest of six million people who stammer in the world..
The Indian Stammering Association
(stammer.in)

Anonymous said...

Anyone can write a reader's response or comment about ASHA-related issues in the ASHA Leader (the biweekly magazine that is mailed to all ASHA members). Just submit to
leader@asha.org and see if they publish it and respond.

Examples are here:
http://www.asha.org/leaderissue.aspx?section=Letters