, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 139-146

Corporate moral responsibility in health care

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Abstract

The question of corporate moral responsibility – of whether it makes sense to hold an organisation corporately morally responsible for its actions,rather than holding responsible the individuals who contributed to that action – has been debated over a number of years in the business ethics literature. However, it has had little attention in the world of health care ethics. Health care in the United Kingdom(UK) is becoming an increasingly corporate responsibility, so the issue is increasingly relevant in the health care context, and it is worth considering whether the specific nature of health care raises special questions around corporate moral responsibility. For instance, corporate responsibility has usually been considered in the context of private corporations, and the organisations of health care in the UK are mainly state bodies. However, there is enough similarity in relevant respects between state organisations and private corporations, for the question of corporate responsibility to be equally applicable. Also, health care is characterised by professions with their own systems of ethical regulation. However, this feature does not seriously diminish the importance of the corporate responsibility issue, and the importance of the latter is enhanced by recent developments. But there is one major area of difference. Health care, as an activity with an intrinsically moral goal, differs importantly from commercial activities that are essentially a moral, in that it narrows the range of opportunities for corporate wrongdoing, and also makes such organisations more difficult to punish

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.