Readings from the Ethics Files
The recent focus on ethical behavior has prompted me to dust off a few items.
FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Jim Thomas
Over the years I've gathered a sizeable file of news that concerns ethics. This doesn't mean that I'm any more ethical than the next guy. It means that I'm the one who usually gets the assignment to write the story on ethics.
I'll probably never use most of these filed items, including Hillary Clinton's brush with the House Ethics Committee over her $4.5 million book deal. Some other entries, both old and new, seem appropriate for this column. I've listed them below.
From the files
- Ethical codes can be complicated, so I was relieved to find a simple test: If you could do what you're doing in front of your mother, then your behavior is ethical. Obviously, some ethical things you would never do in front of mom, but you get the idea.
- My brother and sister both sell medical equipment and they can recall instances of unusual behavior. My favorite: A surgeon sent an annual note to sales reps reminding them that his daughter's birthday was only a week away. The note included a suggested list of gifts.
- I covered the trial of an executive who was convicted of illegally overcharging his customers. He showed no remorse and actually blamed tough industry conditions and customers who demanded lower prices. "In business, there are always reasons to take short cuts," the judge told him. "But these reasons never excuse you."
- The media focuses on unethical behavior, and it's everywhere -- sports, healthcare, business, religion, etc. There's not enough space here to list all of the fallen role models.
However, we should take time to applaud organizations such as the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association, which recently published an ethical code for sales and marketing conduct (see
"Ethics in 2002 and Beyond".) We should also congratulate individual companies that have developed independent ethical codes. The rules I've seen appear direct and easy to follow. More important, they embody a spirit -- one that goes beyond word-for-word interpretations to one that provides standards for responsible decision making.
The real role models
Finally, we should salute the vast majority of optometrists and other healthcare professionals who handle all of their affairs with the the highest degree of integrity. It's unfortunate that they don't receive more recognition. Aren't they the role models we really need?
Optometric Management, Issue: September 2002