ConflictOfInterest Policy WhoS Interests Are At Stake

Conflict-Of-Interest Policy: Who?S Interests Are At Stake? Essay, Research Paper

Conflict-Of-Interest Policy: Who?s Interests are at Stake?

The thought of commercialization in the school environment leaves one to speculate that all sources of human development are easily bought. Large commercial business? are able to sew a price tag to the lapel?s of grand universities, making them do their biding, in exchange for private funding. Harvard university, one of the most well known schools of the United States, has put into consideration an easing up on their conflict-of-interest policy, giving them more leeway to profit from their work

(Bio News, 1).

Unlike other schools, such as Stanford and Johns Hopkins, Harvard allows no exceptions to its rules, for they feel that researchers devoting more than 20% of their time to work outside of Harvard, or one who holds more than $20,000 worth of company stock for research, is highly prohibited. (Bio News, 1).

This debate on the conflict-of-interest policy is being reviewed by a committee of senior professors, seeking to boost researchers economic opportunities while ensuring they adhere to the medical school?s ethical standards. I find that Harvard although highly egotistical with their reputation, seeks a better method of gaining profit while helping serve their students (and researchers) needs to maintain their programs at Harvard Medical School.

Administrators say they do not wish to let the conflict-of-interest policy take too long for consideration, for they realize that this is a time when medical schools throughout the country confront ongoing ethical dilemmas as government research grants dry up and professors rely more heavily on corporate money. (Bio News, 2)

?The conundrum now is one of trying to strike a balance between the obvious benefits to society that come from the increased infusion of funds from the corporate arena…? says Ruth Faden, director of the Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. (Bio News, 2)

Harvard officials proposed revisions to ensure that researchers could not hold enough stock to affect a company?s profits, as well as ensuring that researchers will only be allowed to invest in large companies.

At a recent ethics conference at Harvard medical school, professors from Harvard and MIT debated the merits of loosening restrictions on researchers, versus tightening controls on their work. Those favoring the furthering of regulations cited the temptation to make money, and those against more rules argued for increasing incentives and speeding scientist?s research to the market. Therefore, each opposing side looked solely to the amount of money one would profit if able to loosen restrictions or tighten control over the researchers and their works. (Bio News, 3)

Some potential pitfalls and abuses exist if the rules are loosened. They include: an increasing need for secrecy of research to project corporate interests, which runs counter to university tradition of working for the common good. Also, another pitfall is that of misusing students by employing them as poorly paid lab assistants instead of as collaborators and this would fuel public suspicion that research findings were tainted. I find these all very good points, for it proves to me that although money is a main concern for such a large university they also want to keep the publics ? best interests? at heart.

However, John Parrish, who heads Harvard medical schools dermatology department, feels that, ?The bottom line for me is if we make rules, instead of using our judgment, that we risk inhibiting the speed of new technology to market.?(Bio News, 3) John Parrish believes that doctors doing researches involving humans should be required to tell their patients that that they stand to profit from their patient?s acceptance to participate. This means that the sprit of the law is often open to interpretation and professors may stray from the public?s views of what is ?appropriate?, while still staying loyal to their university bounds. For example, a psychiatry professor at Brown University has earned more than $500,000 in consulting fees form pharmaceutical companies whose drugs he touted in articles and lectures. Brown officials said he did not violate their policies, meaning that it is simple for a teacher to make money on the side by agreeing with any large company or firm, since it does not violate the conflict-of-intrest policy at particular universities.

Harvard is now straddling competing interests in hopes that they will be able to revise the guidelines of their conflict-of-interest policy, keeping the policies with in reasonable bounds to better serve both the human good as well as the good of the school.


Conflict of Interest, by Anna Becan.

Bio News at


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