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Ethics Behav. 2012 May 9;22(3):163-188. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

Environmental Factors Contributing to Wrongdoing in Medicine: A Criterion-Based Review of Studies and Cases.

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  • 1Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics, Saint Louis University.


In this paper we describe our approach to understanding wrongdoing in medical research and practice, which involves the statistical analysis of coded data from a large set of published cases. We focus on understanding the environmental factors that predict the kind and the severity of wrongdoing in medicine. Through review of empirical and theoretical literature, consultation with experts, the application of criminological theory, and ongoing analysis of our first 60 cases, we hypothesize that 10 contextual features of the medical environment (including financial rewards, oversight failures, and patients belonging to vulnerable groups) may contribute to professional wrongdoing. We define each variable, examine data supporting our hypothesis, and present a brief case synopsis from our study that illustrates the potential influence of the variable. Finally, we discuss limitations of the resulting framework and directions for future research.

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