After Conflicts of Interest: From Procedural Short-Cut to Ethico-Political Debate

AbstractThis paper critically examines the proliferation of conflicts of interest (COI) discourse and how the most common conceptions of COI presuppose a hierarchy of primary and secondary interests. I show that a form of professional virtue or duty is commonly employed to give the primary interest normative force. However, I argue that in the context of increasingly commercialized healthcare neither virtue nor duty can do the normative work expected of them. Furthermore, I suggest that COI discourse is symptom of rather than solution to the problems of market forces in contemporary medicine. I contend that COI, as it is commonly conceived, is an inadequate concept through which to attend to these problems. It is used as a procedural short-cut to address ethico-political problems. That is, it is an economic and policy concept expected to do significant moral and political work. Like most short-cuts, this one also leads to entanglements and winding roads that fail to reach the destination. As such, I suggest that we need a different set of ethico-political tools to address normative fluidity of medical practice in the absence on a primary interest.
Source: Journal of Bioethical Inquiry - Category: Medical Ethics Source Type: research

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