Assessment 2: Essay

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Conflict of Interest

25th April, 2016

The establishment of independent entities usually comes with the development of rules and regulations that govern them. For instance, businesses likes companies are always run suing sets of rules and regulations as envisaged in the vision and mission statements which have goals and objectives of these companies. Within these very important rules and regulations are underlined rules in what can be referred to as company policies that define the expected modus operandi as governed by the envisaged code of conduct. More often than not, companies will insist that individuals working for them cannot transact or engage in businesses that are actually in the same line with that of the company they work for. If such a thing were to happen, then an individual would be sad to be carrying out activities that conflict with the interests of the company. It is prudent to note that this would mean that the individual’s interests are in conflict with those of the company since what they are doing appear to be similar to what competing entities do to businesses.

The competitive nature of businesses does not allow them to work with people who may harbour ambitions that seem to conflict with the company’s goals. Even more obvious is the fact that such employees cannot be allowed to run similar businesses using separate entities, but expect to do it with full awareness of their employers. According to Davis and Stark (2001), such employees are always let off and may be taken to court, especially when they are suspected to infringe on such aspects as the copyrighted material of the employing entity. To prevent such breaches of contract, employees are made to sign nondisclosure agreements.

In a broader outlook, conflict of interest usually has a lot to do with running private concerns in a public office in such a way that the public office is seen to be abused and not attended to in the manner and respect it needs to be accorded. For instance, Pathranakul (2005) states that when government officers extend their influence earned from positions they hold in public office, and use it to their advantage, then conflict of interest is said to take place. In law, this may well be registered as abuse of office, an offence which is punishable by court of law. In such an instance, the first issue is the aforementioned abuse of office, which, as has been intimated, could lead to a person serving a jail term as punishment, or even paying some form of a fine. They may also lose the said position since they can be found guilty of abusing the powers entrusted to them by the organization. Abuse of office entails using public resources for personal use or even allocating some of it to close relatives and friends in an irregular manner that is void of merit. Morally, this is wrong since public officers are supposed to distribute public resources equally and only to the deserving people. Their close friends and relatives should not benefit over others just because they are related to him in some way or the other.

The professionals working in the medical and pharmaceutical fields are prone to issues of morality as regards to their work. In these respective fields, various issues arise, time and again, and create situations where the lives of human beings may be well affected negatively or worse still, may lead to death. To start off, the medical field has a lot of codes of conduct that stipulate how doctors need to behave around their workplaces and even outside of it. One of the most common areas that have a regular case where doctors or medical researchers are caught in a dilemma is when acting on their own. Thagard (2007) posits that in such cases, doctors and medical researchers may be tempted to act on their own due to various influences, one being the thought that independence guarantees some form of undisputed results. In doing so, the rights of various specimens, mostly animals, may be abused, hence conflict of interest arises since the doctor or medical researcher may carry out a procedure without really seeking to find the authority or clearance from the highest responsible authority.

While such a case is very rare due to many implications on the final results from the research, others arise from medical procedures. When doctors settle to carry out surgical procedures on patients, they are bound to discover more than they were privy to before the procedure. This is not limited to the reasons for carrying out the procedures, but may include more discoveries about the state of health of the patient under surgical procedure (Bekelman et al., 2003). The conflict of interest arises when this doctor refuses to disclose their discovery since, according to him, the final bill for the original procedure will be lower than what can be allowed for the whole procedure. His action would in turn be geared towards covering up so that the costs the medical outlet incurs do not include that of treating the newly discovered disease.

Many research companies usually carry out projects with their interests fully at play. However, it is advisable that they have the interests of many people other than them, at heart. This means that while carrying out research, they should look into issues that affect the people that are impacted upon directly or indirectly by the project (Burdick, p. 200, 1993). For example, when a person decides that their body should be used for scientific research on their demise; their families ought to be informed before their death and after, when pharmaceutical companies, through medical researchers, are allowed to use the body parts of such a person. Failure to inform the family on the intent to use the body or body parts in research can lead to serious court cases that are based on conflict of interest.

Pharmaceutical companies always carry out marketing campaigns just like any other business that intends to introduce prospective customers to their new products. In such cases, the companies may use medical practitioners as salespeople. While this is not prohibited, it may complicate the complex business aspect since it is likely that the practitioner may be barred from revealing some aspects of the products that are harmful to patients, meaning that doctors may well administer harmful medicine to patients while knowing very well that these medical products do not pass the recommended tests. Additionally, Field and Lo (2009) (Eds.) categorically place the interests of such doctors as conflicted with that of the oath they took to be doctors.

Medical practitioners, in cohorts with pharmaceutical companies are wont to work together towards achieving some results in the wider field of medicine and pharmacy. However, and as aforementioned, the two sometimes collude to cover for each other in malpractices that only serve to benefit themselves. This means that they are going against the letter and spirit of the oaths they took to serve human beings. In doing so, pharmaceutical companies get to make profits while disregarding the effects their drugs have on the patients. De Freutas et al (2013) pose a hypothetical situation laced with an ethical situation where a pharmaceutical company decides to hide the fact that its products cause patients to develop more complications. In doing so, they settle with the customers out of court, but still try to write an online journal to justify the use of whatever ingredient it is that causes the medical complications. Such a situation is a critical case of a pharmaceutical company engaging in conflict of interests to the point of refusing to not only withdraw harmful medicine, but also keep justifying its existence and use.

In the recent past, the use of clinical research has been commercialized so much so that in the end, the quality is questionable as it is quite becoming compromised. While the number of privately registered physicians that carry out medical research has increased over e five year period, the numbers of trials for safety have reduced significantly (Field & Lo, p. 4, 2009). A drop, from 80% by a 40 percentile decrease, is quite significant and may be a pointer to conflict of interest since the finances set aside for such research has increased exponentially. Nelson (2002) equates this to the growing need, by pharmaceuticals in the competitive industry, to reap benefits than offer genuinely helpful medicine that works. These are the hallmarks of an industry that is riddled with players that engage in practices that show lots of conflict of interests.

In conclusion, conflict of interest is very common in many industries. The most common cases of conflict of interest can be found in public offices where public servants go against set code of conducts and carry out activities that are openly seen to be competing with those offered by their public office. An example would be a person working for a government organization that dispenses free medicine, but runs an outlet that sells the same medicine that should be given for free where they work. Medical practitioners and pharmaceutical industry is one such area where conflict of interest is rife. Medical practitioners may work in cohorts with pharmaceutical companies to deny patients what is due to them due to various issues that arise from different situations as aforementioned.


Bekelman, J.E., Li, Y. and Gross, C.P., 2003. Scope and impact of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research: a systematic review. Jama, 289(4), pp.454-465.

Burdick, J.F., 1993. Potential conflicts of interest generated by the use of non-heart-beating cadavers. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 3(2), pp.199-202.

Davis, M. and Stark, A., 2001. Conflict of Interest in the Professions.

De Freitas, J., Haque, O.S., Bursztajn, H.J., Cosgrove, L., Gopal, A.A., Paul, R., Shuv-Ami, I. and Wolfman, S., 2013. The ethics of pharmaceutical industry influence in medicine. UNESCO.

Field, M.J. and Lo, B. eds., 2009. Conflict of interest in medical research, education, and practice. National Academies Press.

Field, M.J. and Lo, B. eds., 2009. Conflict of interest in medical research, education, and practice. National Academies Press.

Nelson DK., 2002. Conflict of Interest: Researchers in Amdur and Bankert ed. Institutional Review Board: Management and Function: Sudbury, MA, pp.197-203.

Pathranarakul, P., 2005. Conflict of interest: an ethical issue in public and private management. Associate Dean for Planning and Development, School of Public Administration, National Institute of Development Administration, Banguecoque. ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific, 5, pp.28-30.

Thagard, P., 2007. The moral psychology of conflicts of interest: Insights from affective neuroscience. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 24(4), pp.367-380.