Pharma Buys a Conscience

"The pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries are funneling more and more cash into the pockets of academics who teach and study ethics," observes philosophy professor Carl Elliott, who works at a bioethics center. "Bioethicists have written for years about conflicts of interest in scientific research or patient care yet have paid little attention to the ones that might compromise bioethics itself," he notes, pointing to several cases in which companies like Eli Lilly have used funding to pressure ethicists into censoring or changing their views. "Given enough cases where bioethicists must choose between scholarship and their corporate funders, the funders will eventually win out," he predicts. Ken DeVille, an attorney and historian of medicine at East Carolina University, goes further. "If ethicists are transformed into a bunch of corporate shills who exist only to serve the machine," he asks, "where is the honor in taking part?"