Clarifying Conflict of Interest

Howard Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


As the debate over how to manage or discourage physicians' financial conflicts of interest with the drug and medical device industries has become more heated, critics have questioned or dismissed the concept of "conflict of interest" itself. A satisfactory definition relates conflict of interest to concerns about maintaining social trust and distinguishes between breaches of ethical duty and temptations to breach duty. Numerous objections to such a definition have been offered, none of which prevails on further analysis. Those concerned about conflicts of interest have contributed to misunderstandings, however, by failing to demonstrate when social arrangements leading to temptations to breach duties are in themselves morally blameworthy. Clarifying "conflict of interest" is important if we are eventually going to develop productive modes of engagement between medicine and for-profit industry that avoid the serious ethical pitfalls now in evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-28
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • biomedical research
  • conflict of interest
  • pharmaceutical industry
  • professional ethics
  • regulatory issues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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