The October 2007 issue of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics devoted a special section to the question of commercialism in medicine. This is a timely topic that is getting some attention in the bioethics and medical literature and from the President’s Council for Bioethics (PCBE). In June 2007, the PCBE began a discussion of ethics in the professions with a meeting devoted to the healing professions. Participants were invited to address the question of professional ethics in medicine and nursing specifically, as well as the crisis in professional ethics in general.

Three of those who addressed the PCBE—Arnold Relman, William Sullivan, and I (standing in for Patricia Benner to represent nursing)—pointed to the profit motive in healthcare as a force that is damaging to the ethical practice of medicine, nursing, and, as Sullivan emphasized, to the ethics of...

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