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Abstract

Conflicts of interests (COIs) in medicine are typically taken to be financial in nature: it is often assumed that a COI occurs when a health care practitioner’s financial interest conflicts with patients’ interests, public health interests, or professional obligations more in general. Even when non-financial COIs are acknowledged, ethical concerns are almost exclusively reserved for financial COIs. However, the notion of ‘interests’ cannot be reduced to its financial component. Individuals in general, and medical professionals in particular, have different types of ‘interests’, many of which are non-financial in nature but can still conflict with professional obligations. The debate about health care delivery has largely overlooked this broader notion of ‘interests’. Here, we will focus on health practitioners’ moral or religious values as particular types of personal interests involved in health care delivery that can generate COIs, and on conscientious objection in health care as the expression of a particular type of COI. We argue that, in the health care context, the COIs generated by interests of conscience can be as ethically problematic, and therefore should be treated in the same way, as financial COIs.

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