Business Ethics in Healthcare

The reader of the third edition will find new articles with titles such as "Corporate Compliance," "Health Insurance," "Health Policy in the United States," "Health Services Management Ethics," "Healthcare Institutions," "Just Wages and Salaries," "Labor Unions in Healthcare," "Managed Care," "Medicaid," "Mergers and Acquisitions," "Organizational Ethics in Healthcare," "Private Ownership of Inventions," and "Profit and Commercialism."

This new feature of the Encyclopedia grew from the concern throughout the 1990s and beyond with the ways in which healthcare has become a business ruled by corporate executives and the bottom line of economic profit. While the nonprofit context of healthcare delivery is still significant, even there the freedom of the physician to focus on the best interests of the patient has been to varying degrees compromised by sometimes necessary cost cutting. Many professionals have struggled to retain the moral core of commitment to beneficence and the well-being of patients as even the time allowed for each patient visit has been dramatically contracted, compromising the time to establish an empathic and compassionate relationship. With the restructuring of healthcare along corporate lines, and with the emergence of for-profit healthcare systems answerable to stock holders and Wall Street forces, business ethics in healthcare becomes a significant addition to the Encyclopedia.

The article entitled "Conflict of Interest" raises a question of significance for the field of bioethics itself. Increasingly, especially in academic medical centers at major universities, bioethicists have themselves accepted lucrative financial benefits from pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms. While this does not mean that some bioethicists are no longer free to think for themselves about ethical issues, it does mean that they are subject to various pressures and should fully disclose any financial interests whatsoever that might influence their opinions. Of all fields, bioethics should remain untainted by financial conflict of interest, for its public credibility is always at risk.

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