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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The Complex and Multifaceted Aspects of Conflicts of Interest (Papers: William W. Stead, MD | May 2017)

 


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Judgment and integrity are 2 hallmarks of professionalism. Conflict of interest (COI), bias, and dishonesty represent a spectrum of threats to judgment and integrity.

Conflicts of interest might just be an inescapable feature of modern life, and researchers are no exception. But unchecked they can result in biased research, distorted results and serious risk of harm to society. This great editorial from May 2017 discusses different strategies to mitigate the impacts of conflicts. A great read for us all.

COI, a conflict between a professional responsibility and a personal interest, is at one end of this threat spectrum. COI creates a risk of bias. Bias, a prejudice for or against something, is in the middle of this spectrum. If a COI results in bias, the bias may affect a professional judgment. Dishonesty is deceit or fraud. Dishonesty is at the opposite end of this spectrum from COI. Each of these threats exists on a continuum. COI may be present or perceived. Bias may be conscious or unconscious. Dishonesty may be intentional or unintentional.
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Every professional has COIs. The conflicts may be internal (eg, personal interest in reputation or career advancement) or external (eg, a financial interest in a for-profit business). Few professionals are intentionally dishonest. Recognition that each physician has COIs and that COIs and dishonesty are at different ends of the spectrum is the first step in a thoughtful conversation about how to protect professional judgment and integrity.
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Stead WW. The Complex and Multifaceted Aspects of Conflicts of Interest. JAMA. 2017;317(17):1765-1767. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3435
http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2623588



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