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Conflicts of interest

Physicians should not allow a conflict of interest to influence medical judgment. In some cases, conflicts are hard to avoid, and doctors have a responsibility to avoid entering such situations. Unfortunately, research has shown that conflicts of interests are very common among both academic physicians and physicians in practice. The The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced the Prescription Project for "academic medical centers, professional medical societies and public and private payers to end conflicts of interest resulting from the $12 billion spent annually on pharmaceutical marketing".


For example, doctors who receive income from referring patients for medical tests have been shown to refer more patients for medical tests. This practice is proscribed by the American College of Physicians Ethics Manual

Fee splitting and the payments of commissions to attact referrals of patients is considered unethical and unacceptable in most parts of the world. It is tolerated, though, in some areas of US medical care.

Vendor relationships

Studies show that doctors can be influenced by drug company inducements, including gifts and food. Industry-sponsored Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs influence prescribing patterns. Many patients surveyed in one study agreed that physician gifts from drug companies influence prescribing practices. A growing movement among physicians is attempting to diminish the influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing upon medical practice, as evidenced by Stanford University's ban on drug company-sponsored lunches and gifts. Other academic institutions that have banned pharmaceutical industry-sponsored gifts and food include the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Treatment of family members

Many doctors treat their family members. Doctors who do so must be vigilant not to create conflicts of interest or treat inappropriately.

Sexual relationships

Sexual relationships between doctors and patients can create ethical conflicts, since sexual consent may conflict with the fiduciary responsibility of the physician. Doctors who enter into sexual relationships with patients face the threats of deregistration and prosecution. In the early 1990's it was estimated that 2-9% of doctors had violated this rule.

35px-Wikipedia-logo.png This Article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Medical Ethics article on Wikipedia. The list of authors can be viewed in the history page.