What is Wrong with “Ethics for Sale”? An Analysis of the Many Issues That Complicate the Debate about Conflicts of Interests in Bioethics
Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 35 (1):175-186 (2007)
AbstractBioethics, once a four-letter word in the private sector, is now an integral part of the decisionmaking process of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. And bioethicists, once confined to the classroom and limited to abstract, philosophical discussions about what is right and wrong in medicine and medical research, now play an important role in the practical implementation of ethical boundaries. Bioethicists increasingly are hired by biomedical companies as consultants to highlight and help resolve complex ethical issues that arise in the companies’ normal business practices. Whether motivated by profit, reputation, or a genuine desire to act morally, these companies are willing to pay bioethicists substantial consultation fees for their “expert” opinions. This fairly recent phenomenon has caused some to be concerned about the potential for bioethicists to encounter conflicts of interests. Specifically, many critics of this new relationship between bioethicists and the private sector “are concerned about the appropriateness of ethicists who should have broader interests, such as concerns about social justice, serving clients whose primary interest is profit-maximizing.”
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