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Ethics, Rhetoric, and Expectations: Responsibilities and Obligations of Health Care Systems


Health care organization foundations and other fund-raising departments often function at an arm’s length from the system at large. As such, operations related to their mandate to raise funds and market the organization do not receive the same level of ethical scrutiny brought to bear on other arms within the organization. An area that could benefit from a more focused ethics lens is the use of language and rhetoric employed in order to raise funds and market the organization. Such departments and divisions often utilize overblown promises of miracles and extraordinary advances to convince donors to contribute and to persuade the general public. The result can be a heightened sense of expectation on the part of patients, their families, and the general public as to what can realistically be achieved by the health care system, leading to disappointment and conflict when these expectations are not or cannot be met. This article suggests that such advertising and marketing be subject to the same advertising standards as other businesses.

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Correspondence to Thomas Foreman.

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Foreman, T. Ethics, Rhetoric, and Expectations: Responsibilities and Obligations of Health Care Systems. Bioethical Inquiry 11, 295–299 (2014).

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  • Fund-raising
  • Rhetoric
  • Ethics
  • Health care systems