Description and Examples of Conflicts of Interest

Financial and fiduciary interests, outside activities such as consulting, gifts, and other types of interactions with industry all have the potential to create real or perceived conflicts of interest or commitment with one’s patient care, research, teaching, or other responsibilities at Partners.

There are many different definitions of “conflicts of interest.  One that many have found helpful is the one adopted by the Institute of Medicine, which says:

A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.

Generally speaking, a conflict of interest tends to occur in one of three ways:

  • When an individual has the opportunity to use his or her Partners position for personal financial gain or to benefit a company in which the individual has a financial interest.
  • When outside financial or other interests may inappropriately influence the way in which an individual carries out his or her Partners responsibilities.
  • When an individual’s outside interests otherwise may cause harm to Partners’ reputation, staff, or patients.

In addition to conflicts of interest, another type of conflict is a conflict of commitment.  This occurs when there is an outside relationship that may deter an individual from devoting an appropriate amount of time, energy, creativity, or other personal resources to his or her Partner responsibilities.

Conflicts of interest and commitment are not in and of themselves unethical or impermissible; indeed, they are often unavoidable and in many cases can be appropriately managed or reduced to an acceptable level. However, Partners professionals and staff should be cognizant of the fact that any outside activity, interest, or interaction with industry has the potential to create conflicts, whether real or perceived.  Recognition of potential conflicts, and sensitivity to how personal, financial and other relationships can be perceived by others, are by themselves important parts of managing conflicts.


Examples of Conflicts of Interest

As described above, a conflict of interest exists where an outside financial interest or relationship has the potential to affect the way you do your Partners work. While it is important to be mindful of all situations creating a conflict of interest, it is equally important to remember that not all situations that involve conflict of interest are prohibited by Partners policies.
As an illustration, all of the situations below create some degree of conflict of interest; however, some of them, depending on the circumstances, are acceptable under Partners policies with certain limitations or restrictions.  In addition to the descriptions provided below, Partners personnel are invited to contact OII staff ( or visit the Policy and FAQ sections of the OII’s Partners intranet site (accessible to employees and staff only) to learn more about the details of Partners’ policies and how they apply to these and other specific scenarios.

Click on the expand button next to each scenario to find out if the scenario is a conflict of interest, the circumstances under which it may be acceptable, or whether it is prohibited.


Contact the Office for Interactions with Industry

Telephone: 617-643-7752


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