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To Serve or Not to Serve: Ethical and Policy Implications

By L. A. Jason


The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is one of the nation's more influential health-related non-profit organizations. It plays a large role in shaping health policy by commissioning panels to develop "white papers" describing research and recommendations on a variety of health topics. These white paper publications are often used to help make policy decisions at the legislative and executive levels. Such a prominent institution might seem like a natural ally for policy-related collaborative efforts. As community psychologists, we strongly endorse efforts to positively influence public policy at the national level.

However, while serving on influential panels and commissions like the IOM might seem to be very much part of the ethos of our discipline, there are occasions when such institutions are pursuing a mission that inadvertently has the potential to instigate divisive friction among community activists and organizations. A case study is presented whereby I describe my decision not to accept an invitation to serve on a controversial IOM panel.

I explore the ethical challenges regarding maintaining my independence from this institution and its attempt to redefine chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), as well as the process of searching for alternative avenues for collaborating with community activists to influence policy related to these debilitating illnesses.

© Society for Community Research and Action 2017.

Source: Jason LA. To Serve or Not to Serve: Ethical and Policy Implications. Am J Community Psychol [1]. 2017 Sep 18. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12181. [Epub ahead of print]