Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest could affect one’s impartiality in practice or tempt one to compromise their professional ethics. It occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests where one could influence the other. A dietitian’s intentions and actions may be entirely honourable, but the appearance of a conflict of interest is as damaging as a real conflict of interest.
Potential situations where a dietitian may be tempted to put someone (e.g., self or friend) other than the patient first:
- Using personal status or influence for gain (e.g., endorsement of a friend’s service).
- Conferring benefit (e.g., referral to a friend’s service).
- Receiving a benefit or incentive (e.g., receiving a gift from a sales representative; receiving coupons).
- Selling products for profit (see Position Statement on the Recommendation, Endorsement, and Sale of Products).
- Interactions with clients that go beyond professional duties (e.g., using a client’s personal belongings). Such interactions can raise the possibility that the dietitian is receiving a benefit for something offered or taking unprofessional advantage of their position.
- Due to personal beliefs or convictions (e.g., treating a client differently because of religious or moral beliefs).
A dietitian can use the DORM principle to manage a true or perceived conflict of interest. DORM refers to disclosure, options, reassurance, and modification, these are described in detail below Some conflicts should be avoided rather than managed through DORM.
Disclosure: Openness and transparency with the client or relevant other(s) about the nature of the conflict and of any potential benefit.
Options: Providing a client with options to ensure an informed choice.
Reassurance: Reassuring the client that their choice will not impact the quality of services you provide.
Modification: A modification may remove or reduce the potential for conflict.