Articles

Conflict of interest: A tenacious ethical dilemma in public health policy, not only in clinical practice/research

Leslie London, Richard Matzopoulos, Joanne Corrigal, Jonathan Elliot Myers, Aadielah Maker, Charles Parry

Abstract


In addition to the ethical practice of individual health professionals, bioethical debate about conflict of interest (CoI) must include the institutional ethics of public policy-making, as failure to establish independence from powerful stakeholder influence may pervert public health goals. All involved in public policy processes are accountable for CoI, and our examples involve experts, scientists, professionals, industry and government officials, including the liquor industry in South Africa, which is presented as a case study. Generic principles of how to identify, manage and address CoI are discussed. We propose that health professionals and policy makers should avoid partnering with industries that are harmful to health. Regarding institutional CoI, we recommend that there should be effective policies, procedures and processes for governing public-private joint ventures with such industries. These include arms-length funding, maintaining the balance between contesting vested interests, and full disclosure of the identity and affiliations of all participants in structures and reports pertaining to public policy-making.

Authors' affiliations

Leslie London, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town

Richard Matzopoulos, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, and Burden of Disease Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town

Joanne Corrigal, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town

Jonathan Elliot Myers, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town

Aadielah Maker, Sonke Gender Justice

Charles Parry, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Unit, Medical Research Council; and Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University

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Keywords

Conflict of interest; alcohol; policy; industry; code of conduct

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2012;5(2):102-108. DOI:10.7196/sajbl.234

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-09-15
Date published: 2012-11-23

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