White Coat, Black Hat Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine

11Feb/120

The Ethicator: How much money should I take from Biotech?

revolving door

Dear Ethicator,

You are my personal hero and role model. Just thought I'd get that out there right at the start, just in case it might influence your answer.

I am writing you because I have a problem. Like you, I am a world-renowned bioethicist and digital pioneer. Recently, I was asked to perform an ethics review of a highly reputable, scientifically driven, offshore stem cell clinic. There's only one problem. A few people have died after getting the injections. Not that it's their fault or anything; these things happen. In fact, I suspect this clinic might hire me full-time at some point in the future. My question: when I clear them of wrongdoing, would it be impolite to ask for an "honorarium"? How much do you think would be appropriate?

Your Willing Disciple

Dear Willing Disciple,

No, sir, you are the hero.  You have taken leave from your cushy, well-paid university job to make a difference in the world.  While the rest of us sit and pontificate, you are out there getting your hands dirty, 24/7, keeping the life-saving innovators on the up-and-up.  Sure, some jealous colleagues will raise an eyebrow or two, but remember:  You are one of the good guys.  Otherwise, nobody would have given you the title.

Should you get an honorarium?  That is a tricky question, one that requires a bit of fact-finding, consultation and a thorough study.  You need an independent investigator, someone outside of both Big Ethics and Big Industry, an established ethicist who is not corrupted by the prejudices and petty jealousies of the university scene.  Until very recently, there were no such people in the field, but thanks to some of my own pioneering work on the Internet, a number of new possibilities have opened up.  For more details, feel free to contact me individually.

With good wishes,

The Ethicator

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