Volume 38, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Abraham P. Schwab
Defining Conflicts of Interest in Terms of Judgment
Conflicts of interest represent one of the defining problems of our time, and yet a clear definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest remains elusive. To move us closer to resolving this problem, this article first reviews and critiques attempts to define conflicts of interest, and, second, uses these critiques to ground a more conceptually consistent and practically useful definition. This definition builds on, but also breaks away from Michael Davis’s (1982) definition of conflicts of interest. Specifically, it articulates and defends defining conflicts of interest in terms of their threat to good judgment but does so in the broadest terms. Defining it in this way expands the domain of conflicts of interest, but also avoids unnecessary conceptual distractions and practical difficulties.