Kudos to new ethics code

The University deserves credit for proposing conflict of interest reform.

Recent public inquiries into the University of MinnesotaâÄôs conflict of interest policies have been embarrassing for the institution. The high-profile disclosure of University surgeon Dr. David PollyâÄôs million-dollar relationship with Medtronic, while unfortunate, helped spur what has become an ambitious and thorough overhaul of University ethics codes. The draft of the new policy, which is currently under review and is open for comment, was submitted to department heads last week. It is remarkable in part for applying to faculty across the University and not just the Medical School, where scrutiny has been most intense. The revised policy rightly recognizes the UniversityâÄôs many important relationships with the business sector but imposes a far more rigorous annual review process in which faculty will be required to disclose every detail of âÄúfinancial and/or business interestsâÄù that relate to their work at the University. Among other things, the draft policy also addresses the size of consulting fees garnered by faculty and details strict rules for the management and discipline of determined conflicts of interest. When it is implemented next year, the impact of this ethics policy will be a dramatic increase in the transparency of facultyâÄôs often inevitable ties to business. More importantly, the policy will fulfill its explicit mission to âÄúgain and maintain the publicâÄôs trust.âÄù Altogether, the UniversityâÄôs response to these ethics challenges has been laudable, and its new stance on conflicts of interest sets a gold standard for other institutions across the country.