All Gifts Large and Small
Bioethics and Medical Ethics
Much attention has been focused in recent years on the ethical acceptability of physicians receiving gifts from drug companies. Professional guidelines recognize industry gifts as a conflict of interest and establish thresholds prohibiting the exchange of large gifts while expressly allowing for the exchange of small gifts such as pens, note pads, and coffee. Considerable evidence from the social sciences suggests that gifts of negligible value can influence the behavior of the recipient in ways the recipient does not always realize. Policies and guidelines that rely on arbitrary value limits for gift-giving or receipt should be reevaluated.