UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Surgeon-industry conflict of interest: survey of North Americans' opinions regarding surgeons consulting with industry

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Orthopedics

Publication Date


Document Type



Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Orthopedics | Surgery


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Surgeon-industry conflict of interest (COI) has become a source of considerable interest. Professional medical societies, industry, and policy makers have attempted to regulate potential COI without consideration for public opinion. PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to report on the opinions of individuals representing the general public regarding surgeon-industry consulting relationships.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Web-based survey.

METHODS: Survey was administered using a "spine Web site," and opinions are collected on surgeon-industry consulting and regulation. Associations among responses to similar questions were assessed to ensure validity and subgroup analysis performed for respondent age, sex, education, insurance, employment, and patient status.

RESULTS: Six hundred ten of 642 surveys had complete data. The sample population comprised more females and was older and more educated than the American population. About 80% of respondents felt it was ethical and either beneficial or of no influence to the quality of health care if surgeons were consultants for surgical device companies. Most felt disclosure of an industry relationship was important and paying surgeons royalties for devices, other than those they directly implant, would not affect quality of care. Respondents support multidisciplinary surgeon-industry COI regulation and trust doctors and their professional societies to head this effort.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite the known potential negative impact of surgeon-industry COI on patient care, this study revealed that this does not seem to be reflected in the opinion of the general public. The respondents felt that disclosure is deemed one of the most important means of self-regulation and COI management, which is in agreement with current trends of most spine societies and journals that are increasing the stringency of disclosure policies.

DOI of Published Version



Spine J. 2014 Apr;14(4):584-91. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.06.028. Epub 2013 Aug 22. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society

PubMed ID