Reps in the ranks – the role of industry representatives in surgical innovation

Jane Johnson1, Katrina Hutchison1

1 Department of Philosophy, Level 7 Building W6A, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW, 2109

It is well recognised that relationships between health care providers and industry have the potential to generate conflicts of interest with all their attendant harms. Yet in surgery, such relationships are sometimes encouraged on the basis that surgery is different to other areas of healthcare; that links to industry make an indispensable contribution to surgical progress, research and training. In this paper we focus on the role of industry representatives in surgical innovation. Drawing on interviews from a qualitative study with surgeons, nurses and managers, we explore the nature of the relationships between industry representatives and surgical professionals – the contributions they make to clinical practice but also the challenges they generate in terms of conflicts of interest. We argue the latter are under-acknowledged in surgical innovation, yet if ethical practice is to be fostered, they need to be discussed and addressed.


Jane is a philosopher with expertise in the philosophical and normative analysis of empirical problems. Her primary research interests are in applied ethics, especially animal ethics and the ethics of surgical innovation. From 2009-2011 Jane worked with Professor Wendy Rogers on a project examining the ethics of surgical innovation, and from 2012-2014 was a Macquarie University Research Fellow on the project ‘Animals-as-patients: preventing human guinea pigs in surgical innovation’.

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