Confusion surrounds new medical ethics guidelines

New, stricter guidelines on how doctors should handle the potential conflicts of interest, when interacting with the medical and pharmaceutical industry are in the process of being finalised, but the ethics body that was debating the conundrums involved has been ditched.

Managed by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the group developing the fourth edition of the benchmark Guidelines for Ethical Relationships Between Health Professionals and Industry has recently undergone changes that caused a furore among college fellows.

The controversial draft medical ethics guidelines, three years in the making, urged doctors not to accept free drug samples, nor to enjoy free hospitality from medical industries courting influence with the physicians.

But just three days after the heavily revised guidelines were made public in draft form, they were removed from the RACP website, prompting The Global Mail to report on the turmoil behind-the-scenes.

Within 24 hours of the article’s publication, the president of the college, Associate Professor Les Bolitho, submitted a letter to The Global Mail taking issue with its report, saying the ethics group once charged with the job is being replaced by “time limited and purpose driven Working Parties”.

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