Ethical conflicts in career of medical writers

Medical writers develop content linked with the pharmaceutical, medical, healthcare, and bio-medical sciences. In performing that role, they often face a dilemma about how much they can change or add content so that their writing is not classified as that of a paid ghost writer. This is one of several ethical issues that are an integral part of a medical writer’s career.

With flexibility in terms of working hours, medical writers are able to explore new interdisciplinary fields to develop content. However, crossing the thin line into the realm of ghostwriting is a grave ethical concern in cases where the manuscript is being submitted  to an academic journal for publication.Ethical conflicts

Following are some of the allied issues that have been questioned in a medical writer’s career from an ethical standpoint:

  • Incorrect interpretation of the results by the writer will not only adversely affect the research but also the credibility of the writer.
  • Inadequate research on the specific research topic and related issues might lead to errors of omission or commission, which will finally have a bearing on the quality of the final output.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are constantly evolving existing drugs and introducing new ones. This might position the medical writer on the cusp of uncertainty because such developments necessitate last minute  changes in the manuscript and, possibly, even the conclusions. Conversely, ignoring such new data will jeopardize the research output.
  • Akin to any other field of writing, plagiarism is a bane for medical writers. Often, medical writers are tempted to present someone else’s research work, either wholly or partly. This unethical practice is resorted to as a shortcut to keep abreast of tight deadlines imposed by the author for writing and submitting a research paper.
  • Authorship issues also pose problems for medical writers. They need to follow the journal guidelines and keep at arm’s length the issues related to conflict of interest vis-à-vis the sole proprietor of the manuscript or the research.

Medical writers need to take cognizance of all these potential pitfalls while developing content because such awareness helps them excel in the field of medical writing and leads to a clear understanding of their work objectives.


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