Patient Advocacy Organizations: Institutional Conflicts of Interest, Trust, and Trustworthiness

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (3):680-687 (2013)


Patient advocacy organizations provide patient- and caregiver-oriented education, advocacy, and support services. PAOs are formally organized nonprofit groups that concern themselves with medical conditions or potential medical conditions and have a mission and take actions that seek to help people affected by those medical conditions or to help their families. Examples of PAOs include the American Cancer Society, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the American Heart Association. These organizations advocate for, and provide services to, millions of people with physical and mental conditions — such as cancer, mental illness, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease — via their outreach, meetings, counseling, websites, and published materials. A PAO usually seeks to raise public awareness of a disease’s symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options and promotes research to cure or to prevent that disease.

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