By Joseph Barrios

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Materialism leads to ethical violations in research, an ASU business professor said yesterday.

As part of Ethics Day at the University of Arizona, Marianne Jennings, a professor at the Arizona State University College of Business, gave lectures on how ethics should be remembered in all aspects of research.

She also held a special session for campus administrators and a presentation focusing on ethical issues in medical and scientific research.

Jennings, who teaches business ethics at ASU, said such issues can occur in any area of study where research is involved.

"There's too much focus on materialism," Jennings said. "That commitment to the work ethic is critical."

Jennings cited doctors who falsify insurance records to lower bills for patients and justify it by saying other doctors falsify records. She also cited scientific research results that are falsified to form conclusions that reflect favorably on the research.

Institutions rely on excuses like "Everybody does it," "If we don't do it, someone else will," and "It doesn't really hurt anyone," to justify unethical actions, Jennings said.

"It's a cop out to say it doesn't really hurt anybody," said Charles Geoffrion, associate vice president for research. "She makes the point that ethics should come from the top down."

Geoffrion, who served as head of the UA Committee on Ethics and Commitment, and said there has not been a major breach of ethics in UA research in at least the past four years. But, he said, he is aware of breaches of ethics on other campuses and in other situations.

Geoffrion cited Bonetta J. Evans, 33, who was sentenced to seven years in prison on April 11 for stealing $144,000 from the UA Dermatology section, in the department of Internal Medicine. Evans was an administrative assistant in the section.

But employees can be hesitant about exposing unethical actions because they either do not realize the actions are unethical or fear for repercussions against them, Jennings said.

Despite federal laws that protect "whistle-blowers," Jennings said employees are persecuted for exposing unethical actions accepted by other employees. The employees may retain their jobs, but then are mistreated by fellow employees, she said.

Karen Kravits, clinical research specialist at the Arizona Cancer Center, said employees there are sent office supplies by pharmaceutical companies with company logos on them.

"Their big thing is perks," Kravits said. "If you're super ethical, do you take this pen and pad of paper? Although it's not truly unethical, it is to their advantage."

There has been a rise in unethical activity in research institutions across the country, Jennings said. She said she hoped the trend has peaked.

Jennings said she had a personal experience when she and her husband were having fertility problems and she looked into whether or not her insurance would pay for in-utero fertilization.

A doctor told Jennings it would if he falsified insurance documents. She said she never had to address the concern, however.

"My son Sam came along quite accidentally," Jennings said. Read Next Article