Conflict of interest

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Concept.png Conflict of interest Rdf-icon.png

A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organisation is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, and serving one interest could involve working against another. Typically, this relates to situations in which the personal interest of an individual or organisation might adversely affect a duty owed to make decisions for the benefit of a third party.

The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety.[1] Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that a decision may be unduly influenced by other, secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is actually influenced by a secondary interest.

A widely used definition is: "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest."[2] Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public officer. Secondary interest includes personal benefit and is not limited to only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement, or the wish to do favours for family and friends. These secondary interests are not treated as wrong in and of themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests.

Conflict of interest rules in the public sphere mainly focus on financial relationships since they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable, and usually involve the political, legal, and medical fields.[3]

References

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