"Ghost writing" practice has been criticized recently due to the reveal of details targeting several big pharmaceutical companies. With medical ghostwriting, pharmaceutical companies pay both professional writers to produce papers and then pay other scientists or physicans to attach their names to these papers before they are published in a medical or scientific journals."Ghost writer" may never be acknowledged in the publication. Wyeth was actually sued over the ghost writing practice (see reports from NPR and New York Times). Other companies had similar practices: for example, Merck's case and GSK. New York Times recently reported that Drug Maker Wrote Entire Book Under 2 Doctors’ Names.
“To ghostwrite an entire textbook is a new level of chutzpah,” said Dr. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve never heard of that before. It takes your breath away.”
Actually, "ghost writing" practice has been out there for many years and it is not just in pharmaceutical industry. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written material.No wonder they can publish nice books and articles.
Perhaps, there is nothing wrong in terms of the business model. Medical writer and freelance writer get pays for their services and whether or not being acknowledged is not important to them.
Recently, I heard a new term "ghost surgery": a practice of performing surgery on another phycian's patient by arrangement with the physician but unknown to the patient.A famous surgeon could make an arrangement to have a substitute (perhaps a resident) to perform the surgery without patient's knowledge (patient could be unconscious). What can you do about this practice? can you sue? Not necessarily.
Ghost writer and ghost surgeon are certainly not all 'ghost' out there. There are far more 'ghost' in our daily life and in business practice.