Each day of National Health Ethics Week 2018, we will add a case and discussion questions, based on a different theme.

The theme this year is:



Trust and Transparency: Conflict of Interest Throughout the Healthcare System  

In broad terms, a conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organizations primary goal (caring for a particular patient or patients in general, for example) is or is perceived to be inappropriately influenced by secondary interests. We become particularly concerned when those secondary interests relate to personal gain.

Conflicts of interest arise frequently in health care practice and are often unavoidable, so much of the ethical work involves working out how to manage them appropriately.  This means finding ways to balance the needs various parties, including current patients, future patients, health care providers, learners, and researchers in a context where resources of all kinds are limited.

Challenges can arise in determining the nature of an individual or organizational conflict of interest as well as in determining how to respond appropriately to a potential, perceived, or actual conflict of interest.

Some of the particular features of health care practice in Nova Scotia that can contribute to how we work through ethical questions about conflict of interest include:

  • Multiple relationships between individuals in smaller communities (e.g., a patient’s nurse might also be their child’s soccer coach and also a neighbour)
  • In smaller communities there can be fewer providers of services to choose from (or even no choice of provider)
  • Resources in the health care system are limited, and so providers are often seeking innovative ways to meet needs

Specific resources are included with each case, and below is a list of general resources regarding conflict of interest:

Case 80: Less Talk

Case 81:  Lending A Helping Hand 

Case 82:  Setting Up Shop

Case 83:  Strings Attached

Case 84:  Who’s Who