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May 23, 2011

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I once had to get physicians to disclose their conflicts of interest for a medical journal paper of which the subject was lack of disclosure of conflicts of interest over a highly contentious issue. They balked at disclosing their own interests because they did not view them as conflicted and were somewhat offended that anyone could think they were.

After that experience, I have long felt that required disclosures should not be referred to as "conflict of interest" disclosures. That term itself is offensive and implies lack of integrity in decision making. It causes some not to properly disclose all areas of interest from which they generate income. This is because many view those with opposing views to be conflicted, with their own merely being honorable areas of interest.

It should be "interest" disclosures with catagories to disclose such as ten years worth of:
Federal and state grant/contract funding
Expert witness fees
Corporate/non-profit contracts/grants
Other state/federal/non-profit committees they serve
Association memberships/offices,
Sponsored speaking engagements, etc.

If the word "conflict" were removed from required disclosures, I think it would go a long way toward more accurately reflecting one's motivation for wanting to sit on a particular committee without offending anyone that they must disclose their interest in detail.

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