Let Me Hear From You

Let Me Hear From You

Ethical Practices Committee Draft Document

By M. Patrick Feeney, PhD 

In the July/August issue of Audiology Today, the Academy’s Ethical Practices Committee (EPC) issued a call for comment on a draft document the EPC has been working on for the past two years titled “Proposed Ethical Practice Policy on Financial Incentives from Industry (PFII).” The EPC’s primary role is to educate and increase member awareness of the Academy’s Code of Ethics and the practical application of the code, rules, and advisory opinions. The EPC is also charged with the responsibility of conducting periodic review and update of the Academy’s Code of Ethics, guidelines, policies, and advisory opinions clarifying ethics principles and rules. Changes to the Code of Ethics, guidelines, policies, or advisory opinions must be approved by the Academy Board of Directors prior to implementation and publication. The Academy’s ethics consultant, Dr. Mark Pastin, head of the Health Ethics Trust, reviewed the Academy’s ethics documents and program including the draft PFII and commented in his April report, “This is an outstanding, professional, and aggressive ethics program—at least equal to the best we have seen in a national association.”

The basis for having a conflict of interest policy and providing guidelines to our members in this area is rule 4c of the Academy’s Code of Ethics, “Individuals shall not participate in activities that constitute a conflict of professional interest.” That rule has a “thou shalt not” ring to it for a good reason. As individual health-care professionals and as a profession, the interest of our patients is paramount. As part of the effort to review our current guidelines on conflict of interest, the EPC reviewed the available research from the social science literature on the influence of gifts as it pertains to health-care providers. One EPC member, Robert Margolis, wrote a brief (five-page) review of this literature titled, “What Social Science Research Teaches about Financial Incentives from Industry,” which underscores the importance of understanding the influence of gifts so that we may understand their effect on us as professionals. Here we distinguish gifts to a service provider that may influence a decision on patient care as separate and different from sponsorship of educational programs or research awards. As the draft document states, “In audiology, industry supports a wide range of educational events to the substantial benefit of clinicians, students, their patients, and their future patients.”

We have also had the EPC call for comment on the home page of the Academy’s Web site for the past month—“Members: Review and Comment on the DRAFT Proposed Ethical Practice Policy on Financial Incentives from Industry.” A listserv has been developed for the purpose of obtaining your comments on the draft document. The EPC and the Board of Directors highly value your comments on the draft PFII. A number of members have asked questions on the listserv about the document or specific policies. After the close of the listserv at the end of August, the EPC will develop a “Question & Answer” document to address questions that were asked on the listserv, and this will be made available to the membership at large. If you had not previously seen the draft PFII, rest assured that your input is valued. The listserv will remain open until the end of August to receive your comments.

Please use the following link to access; “What Social Science Research Teaches about Financial Incentives from Industry,” the draft PFII, and the listserv[[[FIX]]]. You will also find a link to access the Archives of the listserv to see comments made thus far. Thank you for providing your comments!


Thank you for your input on the brief questionnaire included in my July AT Extra column. At the July board meeting, we used your suggestions:

  • To discuss updating the Academy’s core values. We have referred this project along with your input to the Professional Standards and Practices Committee chaired by Cheryl DeConde-Johnson for further development. The committee will be coming back to you for your input in the process.
  • To discuss practice communities—opportunities for you to engage with those of shared interests and experiences in audiology. This fall with the upgrade of the Academy Web site, we will have the infrastructure in place to facilitate various communication tools for practice communities. Thanks to your input, we have identified several potential communities for the initial launch of this effort. Private practice and research are high on the list. During our discussion we reviewed the wonderful new tools being developed for practice management by the Business Enhancement Strategies & Tools (BEST) Committee chaired by Gyl Kasewurm, including the new publication, The BEST Guide to Marketing for Audiologists.