Archive for October, 2012

The Ethicator: Should I accept money for referrals?

October 26th, 2012

Not your friend.

Dear Ethicator,

I am a psychiatrist, and I have a deeply fulfilling relationship with a contract research company. Whenever I send them a schizophrenic patient for one of their research studies, they send me a referral fee. Win-win, right? I score some coin for my kids’ college funds, and my patients get a 3 week vacation on a locked ward with cable TV. (Okay, they have to test unapproved drugs and wear a rectal sensor, but those things are not as uncomfortable as people say they are.) Problem is, there have apparently been some “adverse events” in these studies, whatever that means, and I am worried that the trial lawyers may claim that these referral fees are a conflict of interest. So my question for you is: how do I resolve my conflict of interest so that I can keep taking the money?

The Ethicator responds:

Here we go again. I’m flat-out sick of this talk about conflict of interest. Why do people always assume conflicts of interest are about money? Not all of them are. There are plenty non-financial conflicts of interests out there, not the least of which is your own conscience. That’s a bias too, you know. If you’re an overweening, sanctimonious prick who refuses to accept any money for advancing medical progress, how much integrity are you going to have making life or death decisions?

Same story, every time: Take a little money from people who make the world better, and the anti-pharma zealots will squeal like stuck pigs. But run around flouting your anti-pharma biases, and nobody says a word. Show me a ProPublica database of socialist nutballs bent on making the world sicker. Show me a journal article that discloses: “Carl Elliott is an attention-seeking media whore, salvaging his foundering career by pissing on the work of hard-working medical professionals. He also doesn’t pay for websites” Think you’ll see that anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath.

Whether you’re working for 2 mil in stock options or just want big-ups from your hippie lawyer fans, you’ve got a conflict of interest somewhere. The other guys are no better. Don’t be bullied; just disclose and move on. Sleep well.

The Ethicator

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