Ethics: A Slippery Slope that Affects the Public

The Photoshop alterations in the Syrian Conflict photo emphasize how ethics can be a slippery slope. I find it hard to believe that a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was fired for such a seemingly harmless alteration. However, if the news agency allowed this minor offense to slide, they would have set a precedent for future journalists to make the same, if not worse, alterations which could misrepresent world events. This consequence would obviously be an ethical dilemma.

slippery slope - caution

 

 

We recently discussed in our HNFE graduate seminar the potential consequences of falsifying data in research studies. In the field of dietetics, we are ethically responsible to use evidence-based nutrition guidelines in nutrition counseling. It’s cool (and scary at the same time) to think about how research studies can change the way health professionals care for their patients. In rare cases, the influences of research studies are not so positive.

For example, there was a study by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield that reported links between autism and a childhood vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. This caused vaccination rates to drop drastically. However, it was later discovered that Wakefield altered the medical history of his participants; there was no link between autism and the vaccine. As such, Measles cases increased drastically in the following years. Full story here:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/autism.vaccines/

It’s mind-boggling to me how the falsification of data can negatively impact public health on such a large scale. It is our responsibility as researchers to follow not only our personal moral codes, but also our professional code of ethics, to ensure the safety of the public at large.

1 Comment

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One Response to Ethics: A Slippery Slope that Affects the Public

  1. scribe

    So here’s a question, just to make a discussion out of this. What counts as falsified data? If I cherry pick my data is that falsifying? what about eliminating gross outliers that might throw off the results? What if I include them to boost the overall curve? What if I simply edit something that I know to be a computer error? when does it become something to be ethically worried about?

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