The rise of ambiguous competing interest declarationsBMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1464 (Published 10 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1464
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We agree with the arguments presented in the recent BMJ editorial by Mintzes and Grundy: “The rise of ambiguous competing interest declarations”. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some authors are using imprecision to potentially obfuscate what may be significant conflicts of interest and that some industry sponsors may be courting influence in more subtle ways e.g. through well-funded meals targeted at specific groups of doctors.
We feel that this is an opportune moment to propose that all UK doctors reacquaint themselves with “the seven principles of public life”, previously known as the Nolan Principles. In summary, the seven principles are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty & leadership.
These principles were set out by Lord Nolan in 1995. The Committee on Standards in Public Life was established to advise:
“...the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in England. It monitors and reports on issues relating to the standards of conduct of all public office holders.”
These eminently reasonable principles apply to all those who hold public office including “...all people appointed to work in:…. Health, education, social and care services”.
We propose that one way to resist this emerging trend of ambiguous declarations of interest and non-traditional industry persuasion would be to remind all UK doctors of their obligation to follow the seven principles of public life, including when making contributions to the medical and scientific literature. Ambiguous declarations of interest are inconsistent with openness and honesty and should be discouraged.
There is nothing in the seven principles which are specific to England or the United Kingdom per se. Given the global nature of medicine and science these days, we humbly commend the seven principles to our international colleagues working in the public sector as a sound ethical basis for professional conduct.
 Rise in vague competing interest declarations. Mintzes B, Grundy Q. BMJ 2018;361:k1464 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1464
 The 7 principles of public life https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life (accessed 4/5/18)
 Committee on Standards in Public Life https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/the-committee-on-standards-i... (accessed 4/5/18)
Competing interests: RJM attended an industry sponsored meal in April 2018 at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.