Conflicts of Interest: Research and Clinical Care

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Abstract

Summary

Conflicts of interest and other ethical dilemmas occur in Alzheimer disease (AD) patient care and research but often are underrecognized by physicians. One or more bioethical principles of autonomy, confidentiality, truth telling, beneficence, and justice, which apply to demented individuals as they do to other patients, may conflict in everyday clinical situations. For example, when demented patients wish to continue driving, autonomy (the patient's right to self-determination) conflicts with beneficence (the duty to promote the patient's welfare). Cognitively impaired patients depend on others for ethical decision making in the resolution of these dilemmas. It is essential that clinicians and investigators involved in the decision-making process do so without bias or conflict of interest. Full disclosure of financial interests increasingly is an accepted requirement in the conduct of biomedical research. In AD, less obvious potential conflicts of interest arise when physicians recruit their patients for antidementia drug trials sponsored by a pharmaceutical company (that provides the physician with research funding) or when investigators fail to acknowledge the patient's withdrawal of assent when attempting to complete a research protocol. The recognition of both financial and nonfinancial conflicts should lead to measures to reduce bias, which in turn will improve the integrity of research findings and promote patient welfare.

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