Pfizer TV ads with heart expert Jarvik

Dr. Joseph Turow
Professor of Communication
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Professor Turow has been described as "the reigning academic expert on media fragmentation." (N.Y. Times magazine)

As Penn Professor Joe Turow prepares to re-issue his book "Playing Doctor -- Television, Storytelling and Medical Power," which he wrote 20 years ago about doctors' roles as pitchmen in general, and heart expert Robert Jarvik in particular, Pfizer pulled its TV ads that featured Jarvik.

In the book, Dr. Turow noted a 1985 incident about a script for the medical series "Trapper John, MD," that featured the death of a patient with a surgically implanted artificial heart.

"Blood clots, strokes and death were unfortunate norms among the actual artificial heart patients of the day," Dr. Turow wrote.
Jarvik, who at the time held interest in a corporation responsible for developing artificial hearts, was asked to review the script and insisted that the script be re-written, reflecting that the patient does not die. The script was revised.