Is it ethical when doctors sell products?

It's becoming increasingly popular for physicians to sell health products within their practice. We're talking about retail dealings such as high-end toothbrushes sold by dentists, expensive orthopedic shoes from podiatrists, diaper cremes by pediatricians and moisturizers and sunscreens pushed by dermatologists. Physicians have many motives for selling these items, including a genuine belief that the products are best for their patients. But some medical ethicists say that doctors should steer clear of selling any ancillary products at all. The AMA also opposes the practice, calling it unprofessional and distracting from a doctor's primary patient care obligations, particularly if the products turn a profit. Things get particularly iffy when physicians sell private-label, high-priced products carrying their name, something which can strongly telegraph to patients that the doctor is putting sales interests first. In most cases, doctors risk tarnishing their image and compromising their integrity if they go retail, columnist Dr. Valery Ulene suggests.

To find out more about the ethics question:
- read this column in the Los Angeles Times

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